Rabbits as Food

| 5/13/2014 3:16:00 PM

Tags: Meat Rabbits, Sustainable Food, Acorn and Thistle, Laura Damron,

Acorn and ThistleOver time, I’ve grown increasingly concerned about where our food comes from, and more specifically, how it is being raised. I stopped buying most of our meat from the grocery store, and instead switched to a local butcher who deals exclusively in local grassfed beef and free-range poultry. We don’t eat meat every night, but the cost of so-called “specialty” meats is still prohibitive, so I began researching different ways to offset some of that cost by raising our own food animals.

Beef didn’t seem like a good place to start for us; we don’t have a pasture so the initial cost of setting one up plus the learning curve of raising such a big animal would have outweighed any potential savings at the butcher counter. Pigs? Same thing ... they need more care than we would have been able to manage at the time, as we were both still working full time. We already had our laying hens, so adding broilers for a few months didn’t seem like much of an experiment.

Enter the rabbit. I’ve had pet rabbits at many different points in my life, so I knew I’d have some work to do in differentiating between “pet” and “food.” Rabbits, however, are prolific and indiscriminate breeders – so from an efficiency standpoint, they are economical animals to raise as meat. Housing is simple: Cages are typical, but we have ours in an 8-by-8 chain-link dog kennel that’s been reinforced so they’re able to roam around on the ground but still be protected from weather and predators. Their feed is relatively cheap, at $12 to $15 for a 50-pound sack of pellets. Last, but not least, they’re really low maintenance. Compared with beef or pork, they practically care for themselves, and processing them can easily be done at home.

We already had two pet rabbits when we decided to move forward. Barley and Hops, a pair of Satin brothers, had come to join us so that I would have a continuous supply of rabbit manure for my garden. I found a California Giant doe for sale, and the rest is history.

Our Doe - Lynne

A bit about the breeds – Satins are medium to large dual-purpose rabbits, meaning they’re bred for both their meat and their pelts. The Californian is a large dual purpose breed. In my research, I’d read that if you’re going to cross rabbits like this, it’s best to have the female be larger than the male, for ease of giving birth. (This process is ironically referred to as “kindling,” which I have to assume is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that they’re about to take off like wildfire.)

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