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Down: The natural insulator

Written by George Fisher

Image for article Down: The natural insulator

But there’s a problem; are we causing ‘unnecessary harm’? Patagonia has taken steps.

Many of us will go ahead and buy a down garment without a second’s thought. But take a moment for consideration and you realise that the insulation you’re pulling on came from a duck or a goose; just how did it get there? Surely those feathers don’t just fall off…

Well you’re right. While most down feathers are removed from ducks and geese during slaughter, birds in breeding flocks may be plucked repeatedly while they are still alive, causing pain and distress. It’s this practice that has caused a great deal of controversy in recent years.

Patagonia is a company that has considered the issue deeply, in line with their mission to “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm”. That’s why Patagonia down products contain only traceable down. Every down cluster, in every one of its down products, is sourced from birds that have been neither force-fed or live plucked for their feathers during their lifetime.

How do they know this? Patagonia hires an independent third party expert to trace and verify their down supply chain from farm to jacket, and every step in-between. The process starts by auditing the parent farms, where birds are raised to produce eggs. This is where the highest risk for live-plucking occurs, as animals live there for up to four years. Even though Patagonia doesn’t source down from birds at parent farms, they feel obliged to look out for their welfare as they are an essential part of the down supply chain.

The eggs produced at parent farms are then transferred to other farms, where hatchlings are raised for their meat. Patagonia audits these farms to ensure sound animal welfare practices. Down is a by-product of the food industry, and the down that Patagonia buys comes exclusively from slaughterhouses. After the down is collected from geese that have been killed for their meat, they follow it through washing, sorting and processing facilities to ensure proper traceability and segregation from untraceable down. Audits are continued all the way to the garment factory, ensuring their down is kept apart from that of other brands and used only in Patagonia clothing. It’s a lot of work. But this is how Patagonia helps ensure the birds whose down they use have been treated humanely.

Patagonia INSULATED Jacket Women's Down Sweater HoodyPatagonia INSULATED Jacket Men's Down Sweater

Patagonia INSULATED Jacket Women's Down SweaterPatagonia INSULATED Top Men's Down Sweater Vest

Down provides the lightest-weight and most efficient insulation commercially available. As a result, down-insulated products such as the Down Sweater, Down Sweater Vest and Down Sweater Hoody (which you can see below) remain an important staple in Patagonia's product offering and due to this importance, as with every product Patagonia sells, the company feels a deep sense of responsibility to understand the entire supply chain. As with organic cotton, bluesign® approved fabrics and recycled polyester, Patagonia hopes to inspire other companies to look closely at their own supply chains and utilise the model now established by Patagonia for down traceability. Browse our full Patagonia range. Look for the symbols on our website; ask us if not sure...


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