Rabbits, unlike the animals who yield other, more commonly eaten proteins, have one big downfall: They’re cute. If you’re able to look past a rabbit’s obvious visual appeal, though, you’ll see that these eco-friendly animals can act as a nutritious and seemingly simple-to-replenish food source.
Let’s start with that “seemingly simple to replenish” business. Have you ever heard the phrase “breeding like rabbits” used? Although the phrase may have become clichéd, there’s some truth to it. Following one line of breeding practices, a female rabbit (doe) could potentially give birth to 60 offspring (kits) in a year. Additionally, the kits are weaned at four weeks, meaning Momma rabbit can be off and ready to produce a new litter relatively quickly.
So why isn’t rabbit more widely available? Rabbits can be incredibly productive, but, according to Modern Farmer, they’re hard to raise commercially. Rabbits have weak immune systems — along with a nasty rabbit habit of eating their young sometimes when they're startled — and are thus an animal that requires a gentle, tender growing environment. This type of environment isn’t easy to maintain, especially on a commercial scale. While it may seem that rabbits raised for eating should be able to just, well, breed like rabbits, it’s not quite that easy.
On the other hand, Modern Farmer also notes that, “these fluffy herbivores eat alfalfa instead of energy-intensive soy or fish meal.” This means that rabbits have less of an impact on our environment than livestock raised on other feeds.
Chef Anthony Gray of Greenville South Carolina’s Bacon Bros. Public House says, “Most Americans don’t realize that a pound of rabbit meat only has about 800 calories [chicken is slightly higher and beef weighs in at 1440]. Additionally, it contains less fat and only about half of the cholesterol of some more commonly used proteins like chicken and pork. Rabbits are one of the most productive domestic livestock animals available. Given the same amount of feed and water, a rabbit can produce roughly six pounds of meat whereas a cow will only produce one pound.”
Chef Gray isn’t the only person who swears by rabbit meat.
“Rabbit is considered a healthier meat because is almost cholesterol-free and lower in sodium than most meats,” says Steve Lindner of ZoneManhattan.com “Most chefs love to cook with rabbit because it is very versatile and, like chicken, it is used by all ethnic groups. Best of all, it’s a great protein substitute. Spring is my favorite time to prepare rabbit.”
“Rabbit is the ‘chicken of the field’ and one of my favorite white meats to prepare,” says chef Nick Melvin of Venkman’s in Atlanta. “They are one of the healthiest game meats around.”
"Eating rabbit is nice because it's so lean just like chicken,” says chef Steve Zanini of Raleigh’s Faire Steak and Seafood.
Veronica Lim, Retail Manager for Marx Foods, also loves cooking with rabbit. “Rabbit meat is incredible because it’s tender and offers a delicate flavor. From a health perspective, rabbit meat tends to be lean, which can be considered a healthier choice.”
We’ll let these chefs’ recipes do the talking now. Click ahead for some great ways to prepare rabbit.