About UsGet to know us, our story and what we stand for
Icelandic Eider was established in 2019 but the story stretches back decades as we are a third generation of eider duck caretakers on our farm, Hraun, where our whole operation takes place. Hraun, which translates to Lava in English, is located in the snowy Fljót Valley on the Troll Peninsula in Northern-Iceland. It is considered to be one of the harshest places to live on the whole island and yet, our eider ducks stay close to the area year-round and nest in our sanctuary in the springtime. If you ever find yourself in Iceland, feel free to drop by at the house by the lake for a cup of coffee!
I myself have been involved with eiderdown for a few years but prior to that, my parents in-law gathered eiderdown in the area and made duvets and other products. Eiderdown first sparked my interest in 2017 when my career as a football player came to a sudden stop due to injury. I was forced to retire and turn to other ventures. Through my parents in-law, I got to know eiderdown and saw new opportunities in this age-old industry but with a fresh perspective on how to do things and do things differently. The industry had not changed much for decades and desperately needed fresh, young blood.
We have developed new methods in the process and modernized old methods, both in caretaking of our eider duck colony in the springtime, in the cleaning process as well as developing new, never-before-seen products. Today, Icelandic Eider offers a selection of eiderdown products but we plan to expand our selection in the next couple of years. Our aim is to make world renowned products from eiderdown and bring a bit of our history to you. Everything we make is made in house, by our family and we only use 100% renewable energy in our cleaning process. We have our eiderdown tested annually by The International Down and Feather Testing Laboratory, to make sure we are consistently bringing our customers the highest quality product.
The Common Eider Duck
These incredibly tough yet friendly birds are a common sight along Iceland’s shores but around 900.000 common eiders are thought to reside in Iceland. The Common Eider is a resident bird, which means that they do not migrate to a warmer climate in the wintertime but stay in Iceland year-round. To survive the incredibly challenging winter conditions in Iceland these birds have to be resilient and adapt to the ever-changing weather. To keep warm, they use their soft underlayer of feathers, more commonly known as down. Before nesting, the ducks feed and fatten themselves up, gaining around 20% weight, to prepare laying on their eggs for up to 28 days without leaving the nest to feed and as a result, they lose around 30-40% of their weight during the nesting period. Each eider duck will lay anywhere from 2-6 eggs during each nesting period.
When the ducks start laying their eggs, in early May, their body temperature rises by a couple of degrees centigrade. As a result their down comes loose from their chest and belly. They then use their beak to scrape that down into their nest. The brood patch is what keeps the eggs warm. It is essentially a bald spot on the ducks’ underbelly that conducts heat and regulates the eggs’ temperature during incubation. In order to conduct their body heat to the eggs they shed their down from those areas. It is a common misunderstanding that it is the eiderdown itself that keeps the eggs warm during the incubation period when, in fact, it is the brood patch, that conducts the body heat from the eider duck to its eggs. This means that the ducks’ nests could be lined with pretty much anything. The ducks will lay on the eggs for up to 28 days and the ducklings will hatch within a few hours of each other. As soon as the ducklings have dried off, their mother will bring them from their nest and to the ocean, where they will immediately start eating on their own.
WHAT IS EIDERDOWN
Eiderdown is the soft, warm underlayer of feathers from the Common Eider Duck. It is considered to be the most desirable insulator in the world as well as the pinnacle of insulation. Only around 3.000 kilograms are picked per year globally. Of those 3.000 kilograms, Iceland’s yield is around 80%. Eiderdown is gathered in much smaller quantities in Canada, Russia, the Faroe Islands and Norway as well.
Eiderdown is the world’s only down that is gathered from a wild species of bird, as well as being the world’s only down that is naturally hydrophobic. A single eiderdown plume consists of thousands of individual barbs, resembling a barbed wire, that stick each plume to another. This makes eiderdown incredibly cohesive and as a result, it sticks together like velcro.
The International Down and Feather Testing Laboratory (IDFL) conducts annual tests for us and on occasion, compare the popular grey goose down, which is used to fill most down products, to our eiderdown. The test results showed that, “When comparing eiderdown to standard goose down, you will note that eiderdown compresses to a larger degree than goose down, and also recovers better than the goose down. This provides evidence that eiderdown is more durable, making it feel softer while still providing support or loft.”
This confirms what eider duck caretakers have believed for centuries, that eiderdown is more durable and lasts longer than other down. Eiderdown duvets are commonly passed down as heirlooms here in Iceland.
Eiderdown is gathered by hand over the first days of June each year. At Icelandic Eider, we process all our eiderdown at our own facility, which is simply known as the “Down House.” In the Down House, the eiderdown is dried immediately afterit has been gathered. To dry, we use geothermal water and heat conductors. The temperature that the down is dried at is around 35°C and will leave the down bone-dry in a matter of hours. The down is then initially cleaned of debris, mostly seaweed, grass and eggshells, but around 60% of the initial weight of the eiderdown is debris. After being dried and initially cleaned, the down is baked in a specially made oven at around 130°C for four days. This kills all bactearia and makes it easier to clean during the next few steps in the process. After baking, it is put through a couple of machines to clean the rest of the debris and most of the feathers from the down. After machine cleaning, our eiderdown is washed, using a specially made odourless eiderdown soap and warm water. This rids the down of any unwanted smells and other dirt. As the down is drying after washing, at the same temperature as it initially dried at, we pick the leftover feathers by hand. This means that our eiderdown contains less than 0,1% feathers.
Cleaning eiderdown is a tedious and labour-intensive process but around 60 man hours go into each kilogram of eiderdown. Eiderdown is an extremely limited resource but only around 3 tonnes per year are gathered. For comparison, the annual yield of diamonds is around 30 tonnes per year. There are around 25 times more Rolls Royces made each year than there are eiderdown duvets, which gives you an idea about the rarity of these incredible duvets.
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