Kapampangan farmer develops rabbit tocino and sisig as value-added products

JM Maminta, owner of Bunny Box Farm.

Rabbit meat is not as mainstream as many rabbit farmers would want it to be. For rabbit raisers like JM Maminta, one challenge is how to get more people interested in consuming rabbit meat. To acquaint his neighbors in Minalin and Apalit of Pampanga with this meat, he has been raising rabbits on a small farm called the Bunny Box Farm.

JM Maminta, owner of Bunny Box Farm.

JM produces rabbit meat by crossbreeding three breeds: the Palomino, New Zealand White, and California White. He keeps 170 does and 9 pure-breed bucks for breeding but cares for up to 500 rabbits, which he raises for their meat. JM does not sell rabbits to pet shops as he wants to normalize the consumption of rabbit meat. He would rather generate additional income by developing frozen meat products such as tocino, ready-to-eat sisig, siomai, and patties.

He does all his farming using just a 250-square-meter farm at the back of his house. The lot was supposed to be used as an extension of their house, but JM felt that they would not get any economical benefit from doing so. The farm is not only used for rabbits as JM also raises tilapia, chickens, ducks, and turkeys.

Bunny Box Farm is a 250-square-meter farm located in Minalin, Pampanga.

Working as an auditor for ten years

JM graduated with a degree in information technology and worked as an internal auditor for a convenience store for ten years. But even before then, JM was already into farming because of the influence of his grandfather.

While he was working as an auditor, he started taking farming seriously albeit on a small scale. He raised pigs and chickens at the start. For JM, he wanted to start farming while he was still young.

“Karamihan ng mga pinoy ngayon after nila magtrabaho, sa retirement nila, doon sila mag-start mag-farm. So kami baliktad. Ngayon pa lang nag-fafarm na kami para pagdating ng [panahon], masmaeenjoy namin yung farming. Kasi pag 60 ka na, parang di mo na gaanong meenjoy yung farm, kasi sa farm batak dapat dito. Mainit, maputek, dapat nagbubuhat (Most Filipinos only get into farming after retirement. For me, I wanted to start farming while I am still young. I think I wouldn’t enjoy farming when I become 60 years old because farming is a labor-intensive job),” JM said.

In 2022, he resigned from his job to pursue a full-time career in farming and agribusiness. It was difficult for him to find a balance between work and business so he decided to prioritize the latter. “Di mo talaga mapapagrow yung business mo sa farming kapag hati yung oras mo, lalo na kapag kulang ka sa manpower (It’s difficult to grow a farming business if your time is divided, especially when there are not enough people working on a farm),” JM said.

Getting into rabbit farming

JM got into rabbit farming because he had to stop raising pigs when his neighbors complained about the smell coming from his farm. More than that, it was difficult to expand a piggery business because it required a large capital.

He studied what else he could care for so he started raising ducks, and turkeys. The reason he chose to prioritize rabbits is that he wanted to produce high-quality, healthy meat. Rabbit meat has lower fat content compared to pork and beef so it is often recommended as a meat alternative for those that are health-conscious.

He started rabbit farming in 2018. He studied how to care for and breed rabbits by learning about them online. The early challenges of running a rabbitry were the pests and diseases that rabbits could get, and knowing how to avoid or treat them. But a bigger challenge since then and until now is finding a market for rabbit meat.

JM Maminta owns a small food stall where they sell dishes using rabbit meat.

To get his neighbors interested, JM has opened a small food stall that offers dishes using rabbit meat. He sells sisig, Bicol express, and shanghai rolls, which are all made from rabbit meat. For JM, any dish that uses pork can also be prepared using rabbit meat.

In his five years of rabbit farming, he is glad that some people have changed their opinion about rabbit meat, especially with more farmers getting into rabbit production. He said that there was a major increase in rabbit farmers when hog farmers had to stop raising pigs during the height of the African Swine Fever (ASF) epidemic in 2019.

“Feeling ko nag-grow naman yung knowledge ng tao regarding sa karne ng konohe. Kahit dito sa amin, noon wala naman kumakain kahit yung mga kapitbahay namin. Ngayon sila na yung customer namin mismo pag kailangan ng patty, tocino, pang-ulam (I think the knowledge of people about rabbit meat has grown. People from our barangay didn’t use to eat rabbit meat. But they are now our customers and they buy from us when they need patties, tocinos, and other dishes),” JM said.

“Wala naman kasi siya ibang lasa. Halos kapareho lang ng manok kaya wala kami bad feedback naririnig. Ang challenge lang dito is patikimin ang tao ng rabbit. Pag natikman na nila, hahanap-hanapin nila talaga (Rabbit meat doesn’t have any unusual taste. It tastes like chicken, so we don’t hear any negative feedback. The real challenge is to get people to try rabbit meat. Once they try it, they will surely crave for it),” JM added. 

Developing frozen meat products

JM also offers frozen rabbit meat products. Tocino was the first product they experimented with as it was his wife’s favorite dish. They didn’t know any chef who could help them develop their product so they studied how to make rabbit tocino on their own by just learning from online resources. 

The first frozen meat product developed by JM Maminta is rabbit tocino.

After they perfected the rabbit tocino, they developed more products like siomai, patties, and sisig. Their ready-to-eat rabbit sisig is their best-selling product as it is a popular side dish while drinking alcohol. 

As for their tocino, JM said it is hard to compete in the market as there are big meat-producing companies in Pampanga. Most of their customers are just locals from their barangay or town, which JM prefers anyway. He said that he wants his neighbors and fellow residents from Minalin and Apalit to recognize rabbit meat as a meat option before he expands his business to other towns.

“Hanggat hindi 60% ng barangay ko ay di kumakain ng rabbit meat ay di muna ako pwede mag-scale up sa masmalaki. Kumbaga barangay muna. Pag nakuha ko yung barangay, doon na ako sa city. Pag nakuha ko yung city, then sa province (As long as 60% of people in my barangay does not eat rabbit meat, I will not scale up my business. I want to focus on my barangay first, and then the city before expanding province-wide), “JM said.

Rabbit sisig is the best-selling frozen meat product of Bunny Box Farm.

JM does not derive big profits from rabbit farming compared to other income-generating streams on his farm. The reason is that he reinvests the profits into the rabbitry itself. He has big plans for his rabbit business like opening a restaurant or food truck so he could earn more in the future. 

For now, JM is satisfied that caring for rabbits and other animals on his farm allows him to save money as his family no longer has to buy meat from the market. Not only that, farming their own food reassures him that the food he provides his family is safe and healthy.

Photo courtesy bg JM Maminta.

For inquiries, contact JM Maminta at the Facebook page of Bunny Box Farm.

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