|Photo Courtesy of Brent Moore|
Let’s talk about rabbits. Not bugs bunny. Not those furry pets that people say are adorable but don’t ever really do much (I apologize to any pet bunny enthusiasts, but cats beat bunnies for me, and dogs beat them both in my heart). I want to talk about farm rabbits that are bred and raised for meat.
I do think that there is a big distinction to be made between meat rabbits and pet rabbits. Although meat rabbit breeds can be used for pets, when raising them for meat, they become another farm animal, and they produce something that is, apparently, worthwhile.
I say apparently because I have only ever had rabbit twice, and since it was in a stew both times, the taste was covered by many other flavors (especially salt the first time, as I misread the recipe and used a tablespoon of it instead of a teaspoon. Wow, was that gross). Common opinion says that it is comparable, though not identical, to chicken. Like chicken, it is a white meat. What makes it special are the numerous
health benefits that go with it.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, after extensive testing, has stated that “Domestic rabbit meat is the most nutritious meat known to man.”
Rabbit meat is one of the leanest meats known to man. It has less fat than beef, pork, turkey and chicken. It has almost no cholesterol and lower sodium than other meats, so it is often advised for people with heart problems or people who are watching their weight. Most of its protein is easily digestible, making it extremely useful for those trying to build muscle and recommended for those who struggle to digest most meats. On top of all that, it has less calories than other meats and higher amounts of calcium and phosphorus.
For those of us raising rabbits, there are other benefits. It converts feed to meat at a higher ratio than any other farm animal, taking one sixth of the amount of feed that a cow does to make the same amount of meat. Also, it’s meat to bone ratio is higher than other farm animals, even chicken! Finally, they reproduce like rabbits (because they are rabbits), making it fairly easy to have a steady supply of them, and they don’t take up much space.
This winter, we are going to be building cages for them, and come spring, we will be in the rabbit business. We are leaning towards getting New Zealand rabbits, which are one of the top meat breeds. This is one of the things that we are doing that we are just as excited to eat as we are to provide for other people.