Written By: Maddie Liseblad
Consumers shopping for a down jacket or down bedding will often hear terms such as goose down and duck down. Is there a difference between the two? And if so, should it be considered when purchasing down products. The short answer is yes.
What is down?
Normal feathers are the rigid layer of feathers that can be found on the outside birds such as ducks and geese. They generally look flat and their two-dimensional structure have little to no insulation value. Down is the light, fluffy coating that can be found underneath that outside layer of feathers. The bulk of down grows on the breast and underbelly of birds. It is this part that is exposed to water and keeps the birds warm.
Unlike regular feathers, down feathers are three-dimensional and have soft fine filaments. The warmth that is created with down feathers comes from something called “lofting.” Basically down feathers expand or “loft” to fill space and trap pockets of air within the soft filaments and that creates little insulating pockets. The more down clusters a jacket or a comforter contains, the higher it can loft and in turn the warmer the jacket or comforter is. The highest quality down tends to come from mature ducks and geese living in cold climates.
Duck down vs. goose down
So what are the differences between duck down and goose down? There are four basic differences.
Clusters of duck down tend to be smaller in size than goose down. That’s only natural because ducks are generally smaller than geese. But, there are some exceptions to this general rule. For example, if a young goose is used as compared to a mature duck, then the mature duck will have larger size down.
Fill power and resilience
Goose down generally tends to have a more valuable marketing image as compared to duck down. The International Down and Feather Testing Laboratory (IDFL) states goose down is generally thought of as being a better product than duck down. This is because goose clusters tend to produce higher fill power and be more resilient and durable than duck down. This means the goose filaments are able to trap more air, and thus provide more insulation. The general rule is the larger the down clusters, the warmer the jacket or comforter. So in general, a 95 percent goose down jacket will be warmer than a 95 percent duck down jacket. However, keep in mind a high quality duck down can be better than a mediocre quality goose down.
Duck down is generally less expensive to buy than goose down. The main reason for this is because there are far more ducks than geese when it comes to worldwide supply. In addition, duck down is perceived to be slightly inferior in quality in the US marketplace.
The USDA requires that all down that is imported into the country is pre-washed. In addition, some coat and bedding manufacturers wash their down again before using it in production. It is therefore highly unlikely an untrained nose will notice much of a difference between goose and duck down. However, there are some who claim there is a difference in smell between goose down and duck down and they say diet is the main reason. A duck’s diet tends to be more diverse than a goose’s diet as geese only wear grass. Thus they claim goose down has less of an odor problem.