Always look for our Downmark tags and labels for assurance of quality.  
Down
Many things affect the quality of a down product.

Generally, the best down comes from larger, more mature birds. When age and maturity are equal, goose down is better than duck down. However, down from a mature duck is better than down from an immature goose.

 
A high quality White Goose Down plumule will look like the large illustration. A duvet, sleeping bag, or garment filled with this down will be very light and incredibly warm.   A poor quality White Goose Down will look like the smaller illustration. It will not loft well as the more mature down. Even if there were more of this down by weight, it would not be as warm.
     
Down from immature birds not only tends to have poor lofting ability, it also tends to collapse in a relatively short time, because its fibers are so fragile. A duvet made with a mature down will be warmer, lighter and puffier. It will last much longer than one made with immature down.
     

What makes down such a
good insulator?


Each ounce of high quality down has about 2 million fluffy filaments that interlock and overlap to form a protective layer of still air that keeps warmth in and cold out. It is these tiny pockets of air trapped by the down fibers that actually do the insulating.

 
The more mature the down, the greater number of air pockets there are for more efficient insulating. Loft is directly related to insulating power. Because of its resilience, you can scrunch down up or flatten it out, and all it takes is a good shake for it to fluff up and bounce back.
     
Why is down superior to synthetics as an insulator?
Down gives approximately three times the warmth per ounce as synthetics. Far less down is needed by weight than other fillings, which means a much lighter, but warmer product. Synthetics mat and clump together in time, leaving empty cold spots, while down continually relofts, and molds itself to the body. Down also has the marvelous ability to breathe and wick away perspiration.
     

65 year old down
  How long will down last?
When cared for properly, a high quality down will last for generations. Down Association of Canada members have recovered down duvets, several decades old, with fillings which were still in very good condition
     
Does colour have any relationship to quality?
Colour does not affect the quality of a down at all. White down is generally preferred because it can be put into light coloured coverings without showing through. Eiderdown, for instance, is dark brown. Again, quality is determined mainly by the maturity of the bird.
     
Does climate affect the quality of down?
Climate doesn't affect the quality of the down, but it will affect quantity. A bird in cold weather will not grow bigger down to stay warm; it will simply grow more down to stay warm. Quality itself depends on the maturity of the bird.
     


Down is collected by hand from
nests without disturbing the birds

 

What is Eiderdown?
Eiderdown comes from the Eider duck, and is considered to be the finest quality of all downs. It is also the most expensive. This down is unique in that it clings to itself, resulting in superior insulating power. The Eider duck is a protected migratory species. Down is collected by hand from nests without disturbing the birds. Only about 15-20 grams of down is allowed to be recovered from a nest. Eiderdown can range in colour from brown to almost black.

 
 
How are down and feathers processed?
Down and feathers are carefully washed with special processes, rinsed, dried and then separated into different grades by blowing. This is done in a separator consisting of several large bins. The largest feathers, which are the heaviest fall into the first bins, followed by medium, then small feathers. The large, mature down is next, followed lastly by the immature downs. The careful cleaning and grading process must be properly done, in order to permanently elimintate odors, and to ensure permanent lofting of the down.
 
  ©This image is copyrighted

 

How are down and feathers obtained?

Down and feathers are normally obtained from goose and duck farms as a by-product of the poultry industry. Birds are not raised for their down, but rather for their meat - just as leather is a by-product of the beef industry.

 

What is important to know about harvesting down?

Experienced and established farmers in the poultry industry engage in the humane treatment of raising all waterfowl. If birds are stressed, they stop eating, and the yield of meat decreases. The down provided by our our members is obtained solely from approved vendors who use humane animal practices.

 

What is "live plucking"?

There is an issue with the strange practice of  "live plucking" geese and ducks. In the Industry, this practice is regarded as both less than humane and economically brainless. It is hugely labour intensive & expensive. Experienced farmers never do it.

To raise birds with the highest and best yields, the Hutterites maintain free range flocks in large fields in the vast Canadian Prairies. They have found that birds raised to maturity in a good environment grow larger, and have better meat. They have been raising geese and ducks for generations, and the results are the most sought after poultry products, down and feathers.

While Downmark® does not formally inspect Hutterite farms, it is well known through visits by our members that live plucking does not occur. Live plucking is an unacceptable practice.

 

Does Downmark® support humane down harvesting?

Absolutely! Live plucking is an unacceptable practice & association members that purchase down to be processed refuse live plucked down be it Canadian or otherwise. Their ethical guidelines are stated on thier website as well as ours for your purusal.

Given the facts that live plucking degrades the quality and quantity of the poultry and that no processor in Canada would purchase this material, the only down available through Downmark® processors is the humanely obtained by-product of the waterfowl meat trade.

 

     
Why do down products vary so much in price?
You may find a wide range of pricing for down products. There are many factors which affect the quality, and therefore the price. An inexpensive product will be filled with immature down, which will provide little warmth, and will most likely collapse after relatively little use. Shortcuts in the cleaning and processing will have been taken, and this will often lead to odor problems. The Down Association of Canada has also found that a substantial number of inexpensive offshore products have contained high percentages of feathers, rather than down as promised on the label. Workmanship and design are generally inferior on cheap products. Overall, a "bargain" is usually a waste of money. A quality product will certainly cost more, but it will be warm and cozy and last for many years. Something that costs more but lasts 10 times as long is a much better value.
     
     
Feather
Feathers are used in pillows as well as featherbeds.
     
Chopped feather is used in cheaper, lower quality pillows and featherbeds. It is made by chopping up large flight feathers. After use these feather pieces will lie flat on top of each other resulting in a flat product.
 
     
  Small flight feathers are naturally flat and are also used in lower quality products and the resulting item is flat with no spring or bounce.
     
Body feathers have a natural bend or curve which prevents them from lying flat. They make for a much nicer pillow or featherbed.
A product using higher quality body feathers will cost more, but will offer much more comfort and will last much longer than a cheaper item.
 
     
     
Down Proof Coverings - Ticking
Many different fabrics are used on down products. The covering can be as important a quality consideration as the fill. So also is the design and workmanship. This site is devoted to quality of down, but it is important to take fabric, workmanship and finishing into consideration as well.
    It is important that any down,
feather, or down/feather product
is made with a covering that is completely downproof
     
     
Countries of Origin for Down
Down and feathers are an international commodity traded between countries all over the world. There are no countries producing high quality downs at low cost.

The Orient
About 50% of the world's supply comes from the Orient. Most of this is lower to medium grades of down as they generally raise their geese to this stage of maturity.

Europe
Poland, Hungary, and other European nations have a long history of raising geese and ducks that are more mature. This results in generally higher grades of down.

Canada
Downs range from medium grades to superb grades of down . High quality Hutterite down comes from this area.

U.S.A
Very little down is produced other than small amounts of Hutterite down from N. Dakota and lower grade duck downs.

Siberia
There are many products being sold in various forms that state they are filled with "Siberian Down". It is advertised as being the finest down in the world, because of the severity of the Siberian climate. The Down Association of Canada has tried to verify the authenticity of "Siberian Down", without success.

If you are considering the purchase of a product labeled as "Siberian Down", please also consider the following:
  1. The Siberian Goose is an actual species, also known as the Red Breasted Goose. It is a wild migratory bird that is endangered and protected by international treaty. It is red & black in colour, not white. Therefore we are pretty sure that items being sold as Siberian White Goose Down cannot be coming from this source. It would be completely illegal and a very strange colour.

  2. If it is alleged that the down is coming from Siberia, consider this. Siberia is an area north of Mongolia. It is rather hostile to agriculture. Most of Siberia is an enormous area of permafrost - temperatures in some areas have gone to - 71 ° Celsius, that's about 100° below zero Fahrenheit. Not a great area for goose farming. Please note there is a reason that geese migrate. They can't live in very extreme conditions.

  3. The Down Association of Canada has tried without success to find any evidence of goose farming in Siberia, both through inquiries to Government agencies, and through trade contacts.

  4. A major supplier of "Siberian Down" freely admitted to the Down Association of Canada that the term "Siberian" is nothing more than a trade name. The supplier stated:
"We have marketed and sold a high end, expensive, European region product called `Siberian Goose Down' for a couple of years or more in this country and world wide. We have never claimed this product to represent a single country of origin"
The down they supply originates in Europe. They also said that selling a product called Siberian Down does not mean they claim the down to be from Siberia.

**We would comment that if you say that something is "Siberian", then most people are going to think that it comes from Siberia - not somewhere else. Nowhere do they state exactly what country this down does originate in.

At this time, the Down Association of Canada has concluded that "Siberian Goose Down" is simply a trade name. As it is not testable, nor registered, nor set with any kind of quality standard, it means that the quality cannot be verified. At this time any manufacturer or retailer can call any level of quality - "Siberian Goose Down", whether it is a high, medium, or low quality material. There appears to be no standard, so the term is meaningless.

 
How do I know I'm getting what I'm paying for?
The best guide is to look for the Downmark hang tag/label.

When you see this trademark, you know that the manufacturer has had to meet strict guidelines for quality. Not every item displays this tag. The right to use it must be earned. Once earned, quality standards must be strictly maintained. The Down Association of Canada is in fact more vigilant in detecting mislabeling than any level of government. If you do not see the Downmark tag, it is very difficult for the consumer to determine actual quality.