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Unpopularity and high market cost: what these 3 farmers are doing to address these issues in rabbit meat production

A rabbit on a farm managed by Cliff Ballesteros and Katherine Calingasan.

Much has been said about the potential of rabbit meat. For consumers, rabbit meat is a healthy alternative to pork, chicken, and beef with its low fat content. For producers, experienced rabbit breeders will talk about the ease of getting into business with how fast and easy it is for rabbits to breed, as well as the minimal amount of space needed to get started.

Despite all its selling points, there are drawbacks surrounding rabbit meat production that may convince other farmers to stay away. Though acceptance of the meat is increasing in the Philippines, a lot of people remain concerned about consuming this meat. Most people still see rabbits as cute innocent pets, which is why a lot of people do not feel right about turning rabbits into a commercial meat source. 

Another issue is that even though a person has been convinced of the benefits of eating rabbit meat and even wants to make it part of their weekly diet, its high cost per kilo might encourage them to not bother. With rabbit meat costing around P400-P500 per kilo, average Filipinos find it hard to include this meat on their dining table regularly.

Agriculture Online spoke with three rabbit breeders to ask what they are doing and what could be done to address the issue of the unpopularity and the high market cost of rabbit meat.

Influence more farmers to get into rabbit meat production

For Cliff Ballesteros, co-founder of KC Rabbitry, a small rabbitry based in Amadeo, Cavite, they have been conducting workshops since 2011 to get more farmers involved in rabbit meat production. They aim to continuously supply farmers with information about rabbit meat production, as well as to initiate awareness campaigns on the meat.

Cliff believes that with more rabbit breeders, there will be more rabbit meat in the market, thus lowering the price of the meat.

“Yung dream ko as rabbit breeder ay dumami rin yung breeder para bumaba naman yung preyso ng rabbit meat and at the same time, yung mga average [na tao] is makakain rin ng rabbit meat (I hope that more farmers breed rabbits so the price of rabbit meat can go down. At the same time, average people will also get a chance to eat rabbit meat),” Cliff said.

Cliff noted that though the price of rabbit meat has not gone down, it has matched the price of pork and beef.

“Naala ko nung sinabi ko eto nung parang 2011 na one of these days, yung presyo ng baboy and baka, magiging presyo rin ng rabbit meat. Kasi 2011, and presyo ng rabbit meat is P450 per kilo. Ngayon, the same pa rin siya, di siya gumalaw. Pero yung prices ng baboy, baka, tumaas na. Ngaparehas na siya (I remember in 2011, I said that the price of pork and beef will match the price of rabbit meat. The price of rabbit meat at 2011 was P450 per kilo. It is still the same up to now but the price of pork and beef has gone up and matched the price of rabbit meat),” Cliff said.

Establishing a national group

Cliff added the need for a national rabbit breeders’ group to suggest or regulate a standard price for rabbit meat.

“Sa nangyayari ngayon sa Philippines, wala pa tayong established na national group ng rabbit breeders. Just like yung sa pig meron na, sa chickens meron na. Kasi meron na siyang standards na sinusunod sa Philippines kaya ang dali magbuo ng group and kaya nilang macontrol yung price (There is no established national group for rabbit breeders in the Philippines. There are national groups for hog and chicken raisers. This is because there are standards set for raising hog and poultry. Once there are standards set for rabbit meat production, it will be easy to form a national group to control the price),”  Cliff said. 

“Kasi sa ngayon, sa tingin ko, parang sobrang konte pa ng breeders and halos lahat sila ay nasa backyards, so konte yung mga players na malalaki (I think that there are not enough breeders. Most of them also raise rabbits in their backyard, so there are only a few big players in the rabbit meat industry),” Cliff added. 

Katherine Calingasan, the co-founder of KC Rabbitry and wife of Cliff, also noticed the fragmentation of rabbit breeders in the country.

“Konte pa lang yung players na nakaenter na sa indstry. Watak-watak pa yung groups. So nangyayari, parang nagchecheck lang [ang breeders] sa intenret [kung] magkano price niya. Wala tayong parang sa DA (Department of Agriculture), diba may price check para standard na lahat tayo magfofollow na eto yung price range natin (There are only few big players in the industry. As for the groups that exist, they are too fragmented. What happens is that rabbit breeders just consult the internet for the price of rabbit meat. We don’t have like a price check regulated by DA so that rabbit breeders will have a standard to follow),” Katherine said. 

The couple also emphasized the need for collaboration with government agencies. “We trust the government agencies sa lahat ng concerns namin. We talk with DA, we talk to NMIS (National Meat Inspection Service), we talk to FDA (Food and Drug Administration)… kasi gusto namin magkaroon ng collaboration. Kasi eto yung problem namin, maybe [they] can do something about it… Kasi government rin naman mag-iistandardize (We trust government agencies with our concerns. We talk with agencies like DA, NMIS, and FDA cause we want to collaborate with them. The government will be the one to set the standards anyway),” Katherine said.

The couple noted how things have changed since they got started in rabbit meat production. They said that they are working to get certified under FDA and NMIS so they could sell rabbit meat to a wider market. They shared that this was not possible a few years ago due to the absence of relevant regulations for rabbit meat production.

Normalizing rabbit meat for consumers

Jonathan Dumont is the farm manager of Rabbiton, a rabbit-themed agri-tourism site in Pamplona, Negros Oriental. In Rabbiton, they strive to get more people acquainted with rabbit meat by offering rabbit meat dishes.

“What I observe sa Rabbiton is that nine out of 10 na papasok doon and kakain ng rabbit meat, talagang open sila. Kasi ang tao pag nakakain doon, di nila namamalayan na rabbit meat pala. Kaya in general, ang kulang lang sa rabbit industry is awareness talaga… So yun yung ginagawa namin sa Rabbiton. Like sa mall, free taste kami sa mga tao para for awareness (What I observe is that most people are open to eating rabbit meat. What the rabbit industry need is more awareness. In Rabbiton, we conduct free taste sampling to get more people aware about rabbit meat),” Jonathan said.

Cliff and Katherine used to manage Rabbiton. Katherine added that Rabbiton is making rabbit meat more accessible by adding rabbit meat to everyday dishes.

“Kaya sa Rabbiton, yung meat is ginagawa pang-pagkain Pinoy para masmaka-relate yung Pinoy sa rabbit meat. [We] make it into fishball, siomai, siopao, yung pizza sa Rabbiton meron din rabbit meat… burger. (In Rabbiton, rabbit meat is used in Filipino dishes to make it more relatable. We also use rabbit meat in fishballs, siomais, siopaos, pizzas, and burgers)”

“Yung goal namin is lahat ng tao patikman. All breeders talaga yun yung goal. Tulungan lang talaga lahat para makuha yung nationwide na goal (Our goal is for everyone to try rabbit meat. That’s the goal of all rabbit breeders. We just need to help each other to attain this nationwide goal),” Jonathan said.

Photo by Jerome Sagcal.

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