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The Pekin or White Pekin is an American breed of domestic duck, primarily raised for its meat. The breed originates from birds brought to the United States from China in the 19th century and is now bred in many parts of the world. It is also referred to as the American Pekin to differentiate it from the German Pekin, which is a separate breed that also derived from Chinese stock but has a different breeding history. Many of these ducks were raised on Long Island, New York, and the breed was named after this location.
The mallard was domesticated in China over 3000 years ago, and ducks have been force-fed since the 10th century. The Chinese were well-known for their duck breeding, and one of their breeds was called shi-chin-ya-tze, which roughly translates to "ten-pound duck". The American Pekin derives from this breed. In 1872, James E. Palmer loaded 15 white ducks of this type for shipment to the United States, and 9 of them survived the voyage. These 9 birds became the foundation stock of the American Pekin, and by July 1873, Palmer's three hens had laid over 300 eggs. The Pekin was included in the first edition of the Standard of Perfection by the American Poultry Association in 1874 and quickly became popular for meat production. The white feathers of the Pekin made the carcass easier to clean after plucking, which was preferable to the dark feathering of the Cayuga, a popular meat breed at the time.
The American Pekin is a large, solid breed with a rectangular body held at about 40º to the horizontal and a head that is large and rounded. The plumage is creamy white, the legs and feet are a yellowish orange, and the beak is yellow and almost straight. The American Pekin is primarily raised for meat and is known for being a fast-growing, hardy breed with a high feed conversion ratio and a high rate of hatchability for its eggs. Commercial strains have been developed for both meat production and egg laying. Show birds may be larger than commercial production stock but are still sometimes kept for fancy and showing purposes.