Made in Indiana: Roasted duck by Maple Leaf Farms

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(Photos courtesy of Maple Leaf Farms)

History: The company was founded in 1958 by Donald Wentzel, who bought a poultry plant in northern Indiana after deciding to leave the feed trade in Chicago, where he had sold duck feed to farmers on Long Island. He saw how inefficient and costly it was to transport feed cross-country from the Midwest. Wentzel thought it made much more sense to raise ducks close to where the primary feedstuffs—corn and soybeans—are grown and readily available, so he founded Maple Leaf Farms in Indiana.

In the company’s first year, 280,000 ducks were raised in the firm’s Milford location. Wentzel died unexpectedly in 1968, leaving the firm in the hands of his son-in-law, Terry Tucker. In 2001, Wentzel’s grandsons, Scott and John Tucker, were named co-presidents. Several of their children also now work in the family-owned company, which produces about 10 million ducks annually.

The nest(s): The firm partners with 150 farm families in northern Indiana who receive day-old ducklings, then grow and care for them under principles in Maple Leaf’s “Trident Stewardship” program. The company also provides the farmers with feed—with vitamins and probiotics—made at its own mill.

Popular products: The flagship product is the Maple Leaf Farms Roast Half Duck, which is sold fully cooked. In 2022, it was named “Coolest Thing Made in Indiana” in a brackets-style tournament hosted by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and determined by public vote. Maple Leaf Farms also sells whole ducks and duck breasts, legs and rendered fat.

Availability: Products are available in supermarkets, club stores and meat markets throughout the nation, as well as online for home delivery. Maple Leaf Farms also provides duck products to more than 100 Indiana restaurants. It exports duck products to more than 20 countries across the world.

Breed: Maple Leaf Farms raises and sells only White Pekin ducks, which it says are milder—aka “less gamey”—than other breeds.

Operations: The company employs about 1,000 people at operations in Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan and China.

Headquarters: 101 E. Church St., Leesburg

Website: mapleleaffarms.com

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