“I took your suggestion and used my raspberry-ginger brew in my slow cooker and the meat fell off the bone.
It is fat-free and very dense.
I stir-fried some scallions, China choy, and beet tops with ginger and garlic in sesame oil and topped the rabbit with teriyaki sauce.
I have enough for lunch today and tomorrow and more bunny goodness for later this week.
I wish I had picked up another, as I love pork ribs with sauerkraut and potatoes, and this would be another perfect white meat for that German comfort food.”
-Terry, LTD Farm Customer and CSA Farmshare Member
Now that we’ve raised a few rabbits in our rabbit tractor and sold them to our appreciative customers, we feel much more confident about this project. We have a few more litters almost ready to go out on pasture, and it is really a great feeling to be able to give these bunnies a really good life in the short time they are with us, with grass to nibble and good cool earth to lay on. We keep the breeding stock, 1 buck and 4 does, in our shed in cages for now, for a few reasons. One is that we need to be able to make sure they have plenty of food and water and have good appetites. We need to be able to breed them on a schedule, and we need to monitor and take care of newborn kits for a few weeks as well. We also like to collect their poop from under the cage and are using that as our primary source of fertilizer in the garden this year.
Now that we’ve started this project, we want to sit back and figure out if it makes sense to continue.
Here are the pros of rabbit raising:
- They provide these products: meat, fur, and fertilizer
- They are herbivores and can survive on food inedible to humans, i.e. grass, twigs, weeds, hay, leftovers
- They have a feed conversions ratio (how much feed per pound of meat produced) of 3-4:1 versus 2:1 for chickens (which are fed mostly grains), and 8:1 for cows
- They are quiet and don’t require a lot of space, although like all animals they will enjoy as much space as you can give them
- Butchering them takes 1/2 the time as butchering a chicken does for us, and we’re getting better at it every time
- Rabbit meat (lapin) is dense and fine grained, has the most protein of any livestock meat, has less cholesterol then any other livestock meat, and is low in calories
- Lapin can be used in any dish that calls for chicken. As consummate chefs we will be experimenting with lapin to see where it really shines.
- We are two hungry people, and one 2-3 pound rabbit provided us with two meals and a snack. We don’t really know how that happened, but it proved that the dense lapin meat made us feel fuller with less empty calories.
- Rabbits are intelligent and inquisitive; Momma rabbits and their kits are delightful to watch and be around.
- They are not fazed with cold weather, and can breed year round.
- Each of our does can provide us with more then 10 times the amount of their body weight per year, i.e. one 10 pound doe can have up to 5 litters a year, at 8 kits per litter. That’s about 40 kits a year, and at 3 pounds each, she will produce about 120 pounds of meat. That’s a good size pigs worth of food right there, all from one momma, and all contained in a space smaller then the footprint of a compact car.
- Their poop comes in a convenient dry pelletized form: organic fertilizer at it’s best.
- They are fazed by hot and humid weather, and may suffer from heatstroke or miscarriages.
- You do have to clean their cages and nest boxes every now and then.
- They can be keen on escaping, and aren’t too fond of humans or hubbub. Unlike chickens, cows, or pigs, once a rabbit escapes, they are probably gone for good. One reason could be that they are closer to their wilder relatives then chickens or pigs.
- Some people think they are too cute to eat.
- They do have sharp teeth and claws.
- They are prey animals to most everything stalking around your house looking for a meal. But so are chickens.
The positives definitely the small list of negatives. When looked at in light of other animal’s negatives, they are certainly an easy and pleasant animal to keep. The only thing that is making it more difficult for us is that we are attempting to raise the rabbits on pasture. This eliminates the convenience and safety factor that caged animals bring to the farmer, but we think it is by far the best way to raise all of our animals; near the nourishing ground, in the sun and rain, with the green grass and bugs.
As we go on prototyping our rabbit raising experiment, we will continue to share with you what works and what doesn’t. Meanwhile, if you would love to taste this unique new pasture based food, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the lapin list.