Why eat rabbit meat? First of all, because it tastes good! Really good! Some people say it tastes like chicken, but I say it tastes like a combination of chicken and pork. It has more texture and substance than regular chicken meat; and the flavor! Have I said it tastes good?
Rabbits are an extremely sustainable meat for small farms and even city dwellers. According to Slow Food USA, “Rabbit can produce six pounds of meat on the same amount of feed and water it takes a cow to produce just one pound.” Rabbits eat forage that is not useful to humans and even other grazing animals. They eat the weeds from your garden and in turn produce extremely beneficial manure to be used for fertilizer for your garden.
At Spellcast Farm, we started raising rabbits, on a very small scale, primarily for their manure. After a few months of feeding these rabbits (which were small breeds) I thought to myself, “Why continue to feed animals for just their manure? If we are going to raise rabbits, why not raise breeds that can be eaten?” We then invested a lot of money into cages and breeding rabbits, this was all before I had even tried rabbit. It was with great trepidation that I processed and cooked my first rabbit. When my partner, Wally took it off the grill and brought it into the house, the two of us stood at the kitchen island and started to eat the rabbit. We ate and ate and ate! I had prepared side dishes to go with the rabbit, but the rabbit was so good, we didn’t even touch them. Needless to say, I was sold on rabbit meat. It was also a great stride to have raised, slaughtered, processed and then ate meat from an animal that was grown on the farm. We’ve raised other animals for consumption, but they’ve always been slaughtered and processed off the farm.
For the same reasons why we do not raise the conventional meat chicken (the so-called Cornish X) we do not raise common white meat rabbit with pink eyes (the New Zealand). White animals, especially those with pink eyes, are boring! Instead, we went with two rare, heritage breeds: the American Chinchilla and Silver Fox. At one time, the American Chinchilla was the meat breed of choice, but like with chickens, the commercial processors started to demand animals with white coats so the New Zealand breed took over. The Silver Fox is a beautiful breed that dresses out at 65 percent of its live weight. Both breeds are considered dual purpose: useful for both for their pelts and their meat. The American Chinchilla is listed as “critical” and the Silver Fox as “threatened” with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
Why work with threatened, heritage breeds? These slower-growing, wrongly colored breeds are threatened due to commercial farming that favors highly specialized breeds that grow out fast in a controlled environment. Many traditional livestock breeds, like the American Chinchilla and Silver Fox are threatened with extinction.
“These traditional breeds are an essential part of the American agricultural inheritance. Not only do they evoke our past, they are also an important resource for our future.” (American Livestock Breeds Conservancy)
What makes the rabbits raised at Spellcast Farm particularly special is that they are raised on pasture. Rabbit meat is toted as one of the healthiest meats available, and it is, but most rabbit breeders keep their rabbits in cages, fed commercially-prepared pellet food (which usually contains undesirable ingredients like soy, corn and is usually from GMO ingredients). Meat from rabbits raised on pasture and forage is much healthier and of course more tasty! At Spellcast Farm, rabbits designated for meat are put out on pasture once they reach six to eight weeks old and stay on pasture until they are processed at between 14 and 16 weeks. Like all animals raised naturally on pasture, they grow slower than their counterparts raised on pellets. We feel that the extra time it takes for them to get to size is worth it. Rabbits are extremely social creatures and are so happy running and playing on the ground.
It takes a lot more work and management to keep rabbits on pasture so our prices reflect this. We recognize that seven dollars a pound is pricey, but think of it as an occasional (or maybe more often) splurge. Cook rabbit for a special meal: I am sure you will remember this meal with great fondness. Please also remember that the rabbits, like all of the animals at Spellcast Farm, were raised with the utmost respect for their natural habits and diet.
We greatly appreciate your patronage and support.
Michelle and Wally