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Protein Choices: Rabbits

June 11, 2012

Rabbits have been a source of protein for thousands of years in areas where hunting has maintained a popularity in the culture. Domesticated rabbits are raised in hutches and are prolific reproducers, enabling a cost effective source of meat.

Sold in meat markets throughout Europe, rabbit meat has been available in the United States but never at the level of overseas marketing.

Photo taken in the market in Paris’ 7th arrondisement by Beth Rankin in 2009

Californian

New Zealand White

California and New Zealand White rabbits are the most popular breeds for a meat operation. They generally have all the traits needed for a successful meat operation, such as high milk production, frequent breedings, and large litter size .

New Zealand Red

American Chinchilla

Satin

Blanc d’Hotot

Champagne D’Argent

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Heritage breeds include the American Chinchilla, New Zealand Red, Silver Fox, Champagne D’Argents, Blanc d’Hotot, and Satin rabbits.  Many of these are near extinction or on the critical watch list and heritage breeders are helping increase the population and genetic diversification again.

Nutritional information about rabbit meat.

  • Rabbit meat is all white meat.
  • Rabbit has 795 calories per pound. Compare: chicken at 810, veal at 840, turkey at 1190, lamb at 1420, beef at 1440 and pork at 2050.Graph
  • Rabbit has the highest percentage of protein.
  • Rabbit has a lower percentage of fat than chicken, turkey, beef, or pork with unsaturated fatty acids at 63% of the total fatty acids.
  • The cholesterol level in rabbit meat is much lower than chicken, turkey, beef, pork.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture has stated that domestic rabbit meat is the most nutritious meat known to man.
  • Research shows that rabbit meat has been recommended for special diets such as for heart disease patients, diets for the elderly, low sodium diets, and weight reduction diets.
  • Because it is easily digested, it has been recommended by doctors for patients who have trouble eating other meats.
  • Rabbit meat compares very favorably to veal.
  • Rabbit meat is well tolerated by dogs and other pets with digestive issues.

There are several health issues associated with the use of rabbits for meat.  One is tularemia or rabbit fever which  is spread by ticks and infection to humans can occur although more typically with handling wild rabbits.  Another is rabbit starvation,  which results if the human diet is not balanced with a healthy level of fat and other nutritional sources.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2012 9:12 pm

    Very interesting. I might give it a shot if I stumble across a source. (Not about to raise my own.)

  2. June 12, 2012 9:04 am

    You’ve opened my eyes to something we’ve never considered. I’m going to share this with Chef Scott and get his reaction. As with all sources of animal protein, we have a strong bias toward humanely raised and heritage breeds.

    • June 12, 2012 10:30 am

      You and I know that some people will just not move past the image of the Easter Bunny in their mind….but for those people who enjoy exploring new tastes and already trust your offerings, I think it may prove to be successful!

  3. June 12, 2012 9:46 am

    Wow – this could be a great new market. I wonder what would be the reaction of our customers at Panorama?!@?#$?

    • June 12, 2012 10:33 am

      I posted a blog about a farm in Ohio that raises all kinds of heirloom animals (we ordered our Thanksgiving turkey from her) and the one small photo of a rabbit sparked a “spirited” discussion, so I figured I would do some quick research about the value of rabbit as a protein, hence this blog post. Allen Arnold has asked me to start digging into some issues and this sort of feeds into the concept….things that people need to know more about so they can make decisions based on information, not just a gut emotional reaction.

      • June 13, 2012 2:06 pm

        Great blog Beth!

      • June 13, 2012 2:10 pm

        Steph, your farm in Ohio is wonderful with your effort to raise heirloom animals for food production. I am so looking forward to my Thanksgiving turkey, very much understanding that it will be shaped differently but more important than its white meat to dark meat ratio, it will have been raised in a healthy fashion and I know we will be getting great nutrition. I can’t wait until the Wild Ramp Market is open and I can also purchase other meats form you-your pork, your chicken, your rabbit…all will be wonderful sources for our family to improve the quality of our nutrition.

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