Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bob Bennett: Meat on Your Table for Pennies a Pound

We all are aware that millions of Americans raise their own vegetables, shortening supermarket register slips and putting produce on the family dinner table. But did you know that many thousands of your neighbors in rural, suburban, and even metropolitan areas have gone them one better, refusing to settle for a vegetarian effort to supply their own food? These are the growing legions of rabbit raisers, with meat on their tables for pennies a pound — even at no cost or at a profit. And all in less space than that of a compact kitchen garden.

What kind of meat is domestic, home-raised rabbit? It is not wild, gamy, tough, stringy, scrawny or bony. It is an all-white, fine-grained, small-boned, low-fat, low-calorie, low-cholesterol, high-protein delicious dish. In fact, it outranks every other meat you can buy in all those healthy categories. It is served in white-tablecloth restaurants in Manhattan and sold in the best butcher shops all over the country at a price about that of filet mignon. But you don't need to pay $8 to $12 per pound at your market. You can produce it yourself, under the most sanitary conditions ever provided for any animal.

You can control what it eats, to make sure you know what you eat. For your family you can provide the tender and delectable product that results from only 8 weeks on a milk and grain/forage diet. You can put it on your table with little effort, because it can be cooked in any of the ways you prepare chicken or veal. Sure, you can put your own vegetables on the table, but now you can produce the whole meal.

How can this be so simple and easy even if you have no experience with animals and no space for them? Three simple developments have made it all a reality.
  • First, there is now available a vast pool of first-class breeding stock — purebred, hardy, meaty, fast-gaining, heavy-producing domestic rabbits. You will be able to find yours close to home.
  • Second, a complete, pelleted feed is now available everywhere. Each rabbit eats about half a cupful of this grain and forage concentrate once a day. Except for water, that's all it needs. Rabbit pellets are sold in farm supply, garden, hardware, pet, and even some grocery stores.
  • Third is the availability of the self-cleaning cage, made of wire panels. Anyone can build them easily, or you can buy them at farm-supply or hardware stores or order them directly from Internet and mail-order sources. They are lightweight and usable in your garage or shed or outdoors, and they keep your rabbits sparkling clean and odor free, simply a joy to own and the admiration of all who see them. In just one of these cages, in a space about 30 by 36 inches, one female rabbit can produce up to 100 pounds of dressed, edible meat per year. That's eight times her own weight, and it's a feat unmatched by any other farm animal.
Inside that hutch is an animal that's not only productive and odor-free; it's noise free. That's right, it's mute. That's one of the best things about rabbits. They're not too moo-ey large. Not bleatingly rambling. Not oinky-smelly or too cock-a-doodle-darned crowy at 5 a.m. Furthermore, they create no freezer or refrigerator space problems, as larger livestock do. You store them on the hoof, er, hock. You merely dress off only what you and your family can devour at a sitting.

It's all so simple, it's child's play. You might want a child in your family to take on a rabbit project. It teaches responsibility and provides a joint interest between parent and offspring. But finding a rabbit keeper is never a problem because rabbits are so appealing. You might even have to make family members wait their turns to feed them.

The rabbits, the feed, the hutches all make it easy and satisfying to put this delicious meat on your table for pennies a pound. And if you follow the direct, stepwise instructions in Storey's Guide to Raising Rabbits, you are bound to succeed, just as many thousands of others are doing right now.

Bob Bennett is the author of six books on raising rabbits, as well as numerous magazine and newspaper articles. He has served as editor of Rabbits magazine, contributing editor to Countryside magazine, and founder of Domestic Rabbit magazine, and is past director of the American Rabbit Breeders' Association. He lives in Vermont.

1 comment:

Jeffrey A. Dustin said...

I love your books. I bought the first one way back when it was a yellowy orange with New Zealand White Rabbits on the cover. I just bought a NZW yesterday for the first time in years. Thank you for making me have a lifelong hobby with your writing.

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