Tender and lean with low cholesterol and sodium, rabbit meat is an excellent protein source for an expanding population—but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy sell in the U.S. Foodie trends across the country have put braised rabbit, rabbit stew and rabbit sausage on high-end restaurant menus, and as consciousness around alternative protein sources develops, potential to offer your customers rabbit meat grows, too—if you know how to do it right.
A marketing strategy is the place to begin, says Matthew LeRoux, agriculture marketing specialist for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Tompkins County, N.Y., and coauthor of “Guide to Marketing Channel Selection: How to Sell Through Wholesale & Direct Marketing Channels.” Marketing is a dirty word for many farmers who are pressed for time, but it’s the only thing that’s going to sell a product as unusual as rabbit meat. Do the following detective work—it’s not as hard as you think.
Who Will Buy Rabbit Meat?
LeRoux categorizes farmers’ market shoppers into four types:
- Foodies. These shoppers are here for a great food experience. They like talking to the farmer, and they like experimenting with what’s new.
- Socially motivated or green buyers. “They’re buying local food because it’s what they believe in,” LeRoux says. Maybe their motivation is from environmental concerns, to support the local economy or because they’re looking for humanely raised meat. There’s often overlap between the foodie and green types.
- Traditional shoppers. These loyal customers are looking for a good value, not for what’s trendy or ethical.
- Ethnic or religiously motivated diners. Following cultural food traditions and eating according to religious beliefs or restrictions are these shoppers’ primary focuses.
Determine who you want to target as your audience. “When you understand your audience really well, you’ll understand how to serve them,” LeRoux says.
You’re not ignoring all of the other types of shoppers when you do this; rather, you’re giving your target audience exactly what they need.
How Can You Serve Them?
If someone grew up eating rabbit meat, he probably already knows a recipe or a traditional way of preparing rabbit. This is a likely case for the ethnic and religiously motivated shoppers. However, the rest of your customers might not know which end of the rabbit is which.
Every potential customer could stand to be educated about rabbit meat’s healthfulness and flavor, the low environmental impact of raising rabbits, and the conditions in which your rabbits are raised. You should have this information readily available at the farmers’ market, on your website and through your social-media outlets. Because this isn’t your run-of-the-mill ground-beef package, the more informative you can be for all types of shoppers, the better. Keep your business cards handy, and offer a price list that clearly explains the difference between each item you offer.
For the curious but unprepared, go with some standard farmers’ market tactics: Offer recipes, offer samples (check local laws before diving in here), and keep your Facebook, Pinterest and other social-media outlets updated with ways to handle and cook rabbit. LeRoux suggests going one step further and demonstrating how to break down a whole rabbit. Your farmers’ market might sponsor the educational demo, or check with your county cooperative extension for opportunities.
The more you can learn about your target audience, the more success you’ll have. Learning how to serve your customer will also determine production details, such as:
- the desired size of rabbit—fryers (smaller) or roasters (larger)–which could determine the breed you should raise
- rabbit cuts and ground-rabbit options, if your state’s laws allow the sale of cut-up rabbit
- fresh versus frozen rabbit meat, which will dictate your processing schedule
Write a Strategy Sentence
With this legwork done, write a simple strategy sentence that defines your customer and your marketing approach—essentially, to whom are you trying to sell rabbit meat, and what does he want?
LeRoux gives an example of an 11-year-old chicken producer who attended his Strategic Marketing for Livestock Producers class thorugh Cornell Cooperative Extension. The boy walked away from the class with this simple strategy sentence: “I sell whole chickens to people in my neighborhood who don’t know what to do with a whole chicken.”
This might be similar to the strategy sentence you’ll write for your farmers’ market rabbit sales. When you understand where your customer is coming from and you can clearly express that, you are able to support them in buying your rabbit.
The Legal Details
Every state has its own laws regarding meat sales of all kinds. Check yours before proceeding.
The USDA considers rabbit a nonamenable meat, which means it must be processed in a permitted, state-inspected and approved facility, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be inspected by a USDA inspector or have a USDA-inspected stamp like amenable meat, such as chicken, beef and pork.
Get more marketing advice from HobbyFarms.com:
- 11 Steps to Successful Farm Marketing
- 5 Farm-to-School Marketing Tips
- Grow Your Farm Business with Customer-Driven Marketing
- 4 Marketing Tips for Heritage Thanksgiving Turkeys
- 5 Ways to Make Your Market Booth More Professional
About the Author: Freelance writer Lisa Munniksma blogs writes News Hog, a Hobby Farms blog about ag news and opinion, and Freelance Farmer Chick, a blog about sustainable living, agriculture and food systems around the world.