French duck fat puts gourmet spin on biodiesel

Fri Aug 5, 2011 12:43pm EDT
 
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Duck fat has a rich history in French cuisine as the key ingredient in savoury cassoulets and confits, but now industrious farmers are turning the grease into biodiesel and biogas.

A farm cooperative based in St. Aquilin, a rural village in the southwestern region of the Dordogne, is powering a tractor and two other vehicles with biodiesel made from duck fat and hopes to convince others to do the same.

The animal product is in no short supply in this scenic area where two million of the web-footed birds are raised each year, according to the regional agricultural council.

"We're really doing this out of activism, to recognize that we have to do something to help save the planet. We should stop the big speeches and start with little acts," said Jules Charmoy, who raises russet-hued Limousin cattle on his organic farm.

Concerned about the world's reliance on oil, Charmoy and a partner identified a recycling need close to home given the profusion of duck used by many restaurants and food businesses.

Their 50-farm cooperative of like-minded farmers collects the fat from neighboring businesses once every two weeks, and then makes a veritable duck soup that will end up as fuel.

"We also have frying oil and fat from pigs and calves. There's a little bit of everything in there but the dominant thing is duck because we're in the Dordogne," said Charmoy, 37.

The fat is heated to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) to rid it of all water, after which the heat is reduced and alcohol and potassium hydroxide are added. The mixture is shaken and when it settles, the biodiesel is separated below a layer of glycerol.   Continued...