PHOTO: USDA/Flickr
Deb Brandt-Buehler
October 5, 2015

As one of the best meats people can consume, rabbits offer families a rewarding way to supplement their diet. Knowing how and where your meat animals were raised is satisfying for those seeking to cultivate a sustainable lifestyle on a hobby farm, and families appreciate bringing a delicious, home-grown, tender meat to the table. If you’ve considered raising rabbits for meat on your farm, here are some reasons that may convince you to make the leap.

1. High Protein

With 167.5 calories of protein and 6.8 grams of fat per 3-ounce serving, rabbit meat offers the highest protein content of any land animal meat. A serving of beef the same size contains 259 calories from protein and 18.3 grams of fat. Rabbit meat is lean, flavorful and among the healthiest meats people can consume other than fish.

2. Economical To Raise

Of all the meat-producing livestock, rabbits have the best feed conversion ratios: They consume forages rather than grains and convert that food source into meat efficiently. By comparison, grain-fed livestock including beef, poultry and pork, require a much higher amount of food in the form of grains, so by comparison have a larger carbon footprint than rabbits.

3. Quick Turnaround

It takes rabbits 70 days from birth to reach market weight. Young rabbits are weaned between the ages of 4 and 6 weeks, and it takes two to four more weeks for each animal to achieve market weight. At 70 days old, the animals provide a tender meat. And for those processing their animals at home, the animals’ skins are loose and easy to remove.

4. Low Overhead And Start-Up Costs

Rabbits thrive best in all-wire hutches, which can be purchased used for those just starting out. Responsible rabbit care includes:

  • planning for hot weather (rabbits can easily overheat)
  • keeping rabbits safe from predators (dogs are the most common)
  • daily feed and fresh water
  • sanitary conditions year-round

Clean, well-ventilated cages protected from heat (rabbits love colder weather) and ready clean water and food are the criteria for raising healthy rabbits.

5. Lots Of Breed Options

New Zealand Whites and Californians are the top rabbit breeds raised for meat, though Angoras, Giants, Satins and French rabbits are excellent dual-purpose breeds. These breeds produce a fleece that can be harvested prior to processing the animal for meat. Rabbit wools are financially productive in the marketplace—and are perhaps better known in U.S. than the meat.

6. Little Waste

Unlike other larger livestock, rabbit meat results in significantly less offal (organs, bones, hide) when processed, and rabbits have a much higher meat to bone ratio. Californians and New Zealand Whites have finer bones, a lighter loin and a high percentage of dense muscling when compared with the larger rabbit breeds, which will produce more offal at processing.

7. Awesome Support

There are great resources available to those interested in learning more about raising rabbits for meat. A $20 membership to the American Rabbit Breeders Association offers members six issue of Domestic Rabbit magazine, access to breeders across the country and information about rabbit meat producers. You’ll also receive the ARBA Guide to Raising Better Rabbits and Cavies, which provides information about the best practices in raising meat rabbits responsibly including:

  • breeds
  • caging
  • watering systems
  • record keeping
  • animal management
  • butchering

Members also gain access to more than a 100 years of rabbit raising and breeding experience and expertise.

As the local- and slow-food movements continue to grow, there is also potential to build a small revenue stream from raising even a modest herd of rabbits. Niche markets, such as farmers markets, specialty butcher shops and local restaurants are among the possible places you may retail rabbit meat.



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