MIDDLEBURY, Ind. — Rather than letting duck parts that won’t
go to the dinner table go to waste, Culver Duck is using it to create energy.
The company processes about 5 million White Pekin ducks per
year. It sends the extra blood and waste to an anaerobic digester in order to
harvest methane gas and convert it to energy. By recycling the waste, Culver
Duck is able to save money and resources.
“It all started about three years ago, when we installed a
new wetland to treat our wastewater,” said Don Young, renewable energy manager
at Culver Duck. “When they built that, they had in mind that in the future we’d
build a digester. The wetlands and our digester go together, and between the two
it is about a $6 million project.”
Young explained that the waste from the plant is piped to a
reception pit. There, it is mixed with corn byproduct and other byproducts that
are given to Culver Duck. Around 800 gallons per hour are pumped from the
reception site to the digester.
“Once everything is inside the digester, I have three big
motors that constantly stir it up,” Young said. “All the stuff being stirred
together inside the tank creates methane gas inside. We capture the gas, and the
gas gets pumped over to the generators.
“With the energy, we sell it right to the power company,
turn around and buy it back. It saves money and uses resources.”
After going through the digester, the waste is separated
into liquids and solids. The liquids are recycled on the facility’s wetlands.
The wastewater filters through the wetlands and goes to a
pond. That water is used to irrigate crops on 500 acres that Culver Duck owns
and leases to farmers.
The solids are similar to a compost and are used as soil
The technology used for the digester is topnotch, and one of
only a few of its type in Indiana. As a safety feature, the system can
automatically send notifications to the plant manager if something isn’t right.
“Everything is computerized. Everything is touch screen,”
said Young, who runs the waste management facility by himself, with help from
others as needed. “I can start it, stop it and change settings from home.”
Culver Duck focuses on sustainability, but also is conscious
about its impact on the environment.
“Nothing really leaves the facility,” Young said. “Our water
is all recycled, and we keep all our waste from the plant here, too, now.
“Once a duck comes here, we freeze it. We sell the feathers.
There’s little garbage, but we recycle our metal, our cardboard, stuff like
The ducks are sold to restaurants, commonly in New York
City, Chicago and Boston. While duck does not have demand as high as chicken,
beef, turkey or pork, there is a niche market it for it both in America and
Indiana leads the way in duck production.
“There’s only five or six duck facilities in the United
States,” Young said. “Northern Indiana is No. 1 in the United States in duck
He also noted that many of the ducks at the facility were
raised by members of the nearby Amish community.
Culver Duck is a family-owned business that moved from Rhode
Island to Indiana in 1960. The company has grown substantially and still is