We are now ready to start the profitable business of raising rabbits for meat consumption. This will be much easier after we change our mindsets about not eating rabbit meat. We should be able to accept the idea of raising rabbits for meat consumption as being like raising chickens in a poultry farm.
By Art and Angie Veneracion
Appreciating the merits of rabbit meat as compared to the meat commonly eaten today (chicken, beef, pork, veal, turkey, and lamb) will certainly lead us to this acceptance. The USDA’s declaration that rabbit meat is the most nutritious meat was based on various studies. The results of these studies were provided to us through circulars and publications.
These prove that eating rabbit meat is good for us and there should be no reason for us to dislike it. The all white meat is delicious, very palatable and easily digested. The low calorie and high protein content is very desirable to athletes and health enthusiasts, and it is prescribed to people with special health concerns.
Rabbit meat, like poultry, is classified according to the tenderness of the meat relative to the cooking procedure:
1. Fryers – around 3 months old, weighing 1 to 1.5 kilos and should dress out at about 0.6 to 0.9 kilos.
2. Roasters – over 3 months old but not over 6 months; and
3. Stewers – Over 6 months old. Culled animals are in this category
Based on the practices of the countries where rabbit meat is a staple, we found that this is the best method to process rabbits:
• Hold the hind legs with your strong hand and hold the neck below the head with your other hand.
• Pull in opposite directions while pushing straight down to break the neck.
• Hang the rabbit upside down once it is dispatched.
• Proceed to sever the head and completely drain the blood.
• Next, cut off the tail then the front feet at the first joints.
• Then, cut the skin around the two hind feet, without cutting through the meat.
• Cut through the skin down the inside of the back legs to the crotch and around the anus and tail.
• Peel the skin downwards off the legs, continuing down until it has peeled off the whole body.
• Make a slit just under the muscle, starting near the tail opening, moving downward up to the rib cage.
• Then, cut around the anal opening and between the hind legs to remove the bowels and entrails, making sure these are not ruptured.
• Wash and drain. Pat dry if necessary then pack to freeze or proceed to butcher.
Rabbit carcasses are dressed with no head, viscera, and paws. The edible inner organs are cleaned and packed with the meat before freezing. Meat recovery is approximately 60% of live weight.
Institutional buyers like hotels, restaurants, hospitals, and clubs prefer to have their chefs cut the carcasses according to their requirements.
But if we will raise rabbits for meat, we should be our first clients, ready to consume our product. It will be very useful for us to know how to portion our meat.
Rabbit meat is cut very much like we would cut poultry. Use a knife to avoid breaking small bones, and then use the cleaver to cut through the spine.
• Start cutting by removing the front legs (very much like the wings of chicken); then slice through with a knife from underneath along the ribs.
• Next, cut off the hind legs (this would be the thigh and drumstick part on chicken). Start on the underside and slice gently along the pelvis bones until you get into the ball and socket joint, then bend it back to snap the joint. Proceed to slice around the back leg to separate it from the body.
• Attached to the body is the boneless belly flap; slice right along the line where the loin starts, then run the knife along the edge of the ribs. You may fillet the meat off the ribs up to where the front legs were.
• Next, cut off the rib cage by cutting along the last rib, then bend backwards to snap the spine. Continue to sever the portion with a knife or chop through the spine with a cleaver.
• Proceed to cut off the pelvis. Mark the spine portion where you wish to cut, snap by bending backwards or sever with the cleaver, then cut off with a knife.
• You are now left with the loin. Slice a cutting guide line through the spine with a knife, and then proceed to cut using a cleaver—preferably in one blow—to the desired size.
• You now have the rabbit meat cut to the desired serving pieces ready for cooking.
We are often asked about the ‘gamey’ taste of the meat, which may require cooking in wine and spices. Domestic rabbit meat does not have this characteristic, unlike the meat of rabbits or hares hunted from the wild. The clean, quiet and orderly environment where we grow our rabbits makes them yield stress-free, tender, and delicious meat.
It doesn’t take a chef to cook rabbit dishes; a home cook will do just as well. At Aven Nature’s Farm, we use rabbit meat in almost all dishes that require the use of meat, especially chicken meat. A variety of native dishes, from appetizers, soups, and main courses—like papaitan, adobo, adobo sa dilaw, kaldereta, sisig, and rabbit chorizo rice—are prepared using rabbit meat.
Ask those who have partaken of rabbit dishes before and they will tell you that rabbit meat is indeed delicious. However, as they are only familiar with rabbit stew, most of them are not aware that we can use rabbit meat for soup dishes. Our guests who have tasted our arroz caldo, sinampalukan, sinigang sa libas, and rabbit tinola were pleasantly surprised and became instant fans.
Occasionally, we cook dishes from recipes we download from the Internet, like roast rabbit with rosemary, rabbit stew, grilled rabbit, lettuce wrap and rabbit risotto, and we are always delighted with the results.
This appeared as “Rabbit Farming Part 5” in Agriculture Monthly’s December 2015 issue.