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Can you tell me about eiderdown production in Iceland?

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Can you tell me about eiderdown production in Iceland?

Q: Recently consumers in China noticed that a popular online shopping website offers a very expensive type of quilt, which is selling at nearly EUR 30,000 (ISK 4.8 million, USD 41,000) for one set. It is advertised as filled with eider duck down from Iceland.

Some online friends of mine as well as myself are wondering whether there is such a large-scale production of eider duck down in Iceland that it can meet the demand for such quilts. I guess we're interested in whether the claim from this brand Luolai is authentic.

Would you please help us check certain facts about this special species of duck and its down production?

Thanks so much!

Jacey, China

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A: G. Helga Jóhannesdóttir, innovation adviser and natural resource adviser at the Farmers’ Association of Iceland, said that according to Statistics Iceland, no Icelandic eiderdown producer has exported eiderdown to China this year.

However, that doesn’t mean that the quilts you mention don’t contain authentic Icelandic eiderdown.

Most eiderdown exported from Iceland is sold to companies in Japan and Europe where duvets, either with pure Icelandic eiderdown or mixed down, are produced and sold onwards.

In Iceland only 100 percent pure eiderdown duvets are sold. In Japan such duvets cost a minimum of ISK 1.5 million (USD 13,000, EUR 9,000), depending on the size, amount of down and type of cover.

There is no industrial production of eiderdown in Iceland, that is, the down is hand-picked from the birds’ nests, cleaned and washed before it is put into duvets or exported for further production in other countries.

Jóhannesdóttir said that a special relationship has been created between farmers and the wild eider duck in Iceland, which has been under absolute protection since 1847.

Icelandic eiderdown is produced in an ecological and sustainable manner. Down has to be collected from at least 60 nests to obtain one kilo of cleaned first-class eiderdown. If farmers wouldn’t collect the down from the nests, the wind would scatter it.

Eiderdown is unique and has qualities no other down has; it clings together and can therefore be picked up like a blanket. It is particularly airy and light and has special ventilation.

Therefore it doesn’t matter whether you sleep under an eiderdown duvet in -30°C (-22°F) or inside a heated house, you always feel comfortable underneath the duvet, Jóhannesdóttir stated.

The eider lives for 20-25 years and returns to the same nesting grounds year after year. Each year, each eider produces approximately 16 grams of down. The down comes loose from their chests after breeding and they lay it in their nests to protect the eggs.

Iceland exports approximately 3,000 kilos of cleansed eiderdown annually and has around 80-90 percent of the world’s market share of the product.

A documentary about Icelandic eiderdown is in the finishing stages, a brochure on the topic is underway and a website dedicated to the Icelandic eider is under construction.

Click here to read more about eider ducks and eiderdown production in Iceland.