Most of us think of the down in our down jackets and sleeping bags as a byproduct of the food industry. Geese and ducks are raised on farms and slaughtered for their meat; the sleeve of a down jacket is filled.
And that’s the ethical way down makes its way into your jacket (or sleeping bag, comforter, gloves, etc). The unethical way?
Live geese are forcibly restrained and live-plucked several times each year to contribute down throughout their lives. Live-plucked down also has a higher quality because it hasn’t been “degraded” by the slaughtering process.
Others are force-fed to increase their meat production, their down collected post-humously. The really unlucky geese are the ones who get live-plucked up to six times each year while being force-fed and then slaughtered for their bloated livers.
These grisly practices have prompted the outdoor industry to search for a more ethical solution to obtaining down. Which ALLIED Feather & Down, a supplier who sources its down globally from suppliers who only raise birds for meat and sells to companies, has done.
ALLIED Feather & Down has responded to this scourge of animal abuse in two significant ways:
Worked in conjunction with The North Face in the creation of the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) which certifies and oversees a global network of goose and duck farmers that adhere to the standards and supply their partners with responsibly-sourced and processed down.
- Created Track My Down, a program that enables ALLIED partner products like the Helly Hansen Verlgas long parka – many of which are also RDS-certified– to include a TrackMyDown.com hangtag with a lot number that traces the origin of the down (Europe or Asia), content (goose vs duck), fill power, care tips and information on the differences between European and Asian down.
The quality of the down is dependent on several factors and the beauty of the TrackMyDown hangtag is the information you learn:
- Species (goose down is better than duck down but down from a mature duck is better than down from an immature goose)
- Region (European birds live longer, grow larger and produce a higher quality down. Their Asian counterparts aren’t as lucky due to the need to feed the denser Asian population)
- Climate (Birds in cold climates naturally grow warmer down)
- Age at death (a mature goose that lived on a farm Northern Norway will have a denser down than the youthful duck in Southern China—but a mature duck from Southern China will have a higher-quality down than a youthful goose on a farm in Northern Norway). Make sense?
In some cases, the European and Asian lots are blended, a la Eurasian fusion-style to make a more affordable higher quality fill.
For the record, this is all stuff I learned as a result of my Helly Hansen Verglas long parka, whose hangtag lot number is 0808L18F046.
When I traced the lot number, here’s what I learned:
- The down in my jacket came from China.
- It was processed in Anhui, China at one of 2 facilities owned and operated by ALLIED Feather & Down. The facilities recycle approximately 65 million gallons of water annually and are Bluesign certified.
- It is 100% grey goose!
- Its verified fill-power is 735 fill power, which traps more air for its weight than 700 fill power. Bonus warmth. Woot!
- The specific break-down of the 735 fill contents is 87% down cluster, 6% down fiber, 3% feather fiber and 3.4% waterfowl, 0% broken feathers and quill, 0.4% landfowl and 0.2% residue.
- The differences between European and Asian down, old geese and young ducks.
Think of the TMD hangtag as the 23andMe of your down jacket or sleeping bag.
‘Tis the season for down jackets. If you’re shopping for a down jacket, I highly recommend down jackets who partner with ALLIED Feather & Down to ensures the down was responsibly and ethically sourced.