Friday, November 13, 2015

Empty Nests

"Yes, that's right! There are no babies in here."

Two empty nest boxes: what a way to begin the 2015-2016 breeding season. The weather finally turned cooler and we have no babies to show for our labor. With great expectation, we bred our new broken buck to our best does from last season. They appeared to be successful breedings, but something must have gone wrong. I know some tell us to breed through the summer heat and keep the rabbits on a regular schedule. But I am a softy and cannot justify breeding when it is 110 degrees outside. So we wait for the frost to appear on the rooftops.

The frost is here and we still have empty nests. Perhaps LoverBoy shot blanks because of the summer heat or perhaps my does accumulated too much fat over the summer layoff. We are breeding with the goal of producing our show stock for the 2016 ARBA national convention in San Diego. Not an auspicious start, but I guess that is the nature of trying to control Mother Nature. So, we will remove the nest boxes and  try again. 

I will try LoverBoy again with Buttercup, but I will put LoverBoy's son, Luke, with Jazzie. I will keep the  lights on for about 17 hours in the breeding barn and hope for a bountiful winter.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Promoting rabbit as a healthy alternative meat

The Scott Rea Project

As a breeder and consumer of organic rabbit meat, I believe YouTube videos provide the breeder and consumer with a wide breadth of valuable information. On my "Links" page, I have tried to provide links to YouTube videos that show how to process, joint, and debone rabbits. Lately, I have discovered several rabbit cooking videos by Scott Rea; his videos make cooking with rabbit seem simple and the end meal always looks delicious.

I find it odd in this strange new world of interconnectedness that my inspiration in rabbit preparation is a tattooed butcher, who is showing the world how to cook rabbit from his kitchen in England. His enthusiasm for cooking and his ability to keep it simple has caught the attention of his fans all over the world.

Unfortunately, here in California, many think of eating rabbits as sacrilegious. This hesitation to eat rabbit or even think of rabbit as an alternative protein source presents a challenge to breeders of rabbit meat.

My grandma used to talk to me about victory gardens during World War II. In upper Michigan, many rural family's planted their own vegetable garden and raised their own rabbit meat. Two does and a buck could feed a family. Today, when I discuss the virtues of raising meat rabbits at our local 4-H meetings, I get the frequent, "You really eat those cute bunnies." That is the problem: rabbits are cute and cuddly. It is harder to raise rabbits on your own property, then explain to the kids why we are going to eat that cute little pet.

Local rabbit processing plants are paying good money for meat rabbits and list their demand as very high.  The processing plants have developed relations with upscale restaurants, and many health conscious urban dwellers are asking for a low fat, low cholesterol meat for their diningroom tables and dog bowls. Rabbit meat fits this demand in the marketplace.

The question everyone always asks is "Does it taste like chicken?" the answer I give is "sort of." Rabbit is much easier to process than a chicken; however, rabbit meat is more difficult to cook. Because of the low fat nature of its meat, like bison, rabbit can be tough when cooked quickly on high heat. This is where the Scott Rea Project comes in: His videos demonstrate how to cook rabbit so that it is both tender and delicious. I am encouraging my wife, who is an excellent cook, to visit my "Links page" so that she can get some new ideas on how to cook rabbit. I especially want to try Scott's "Bunny Burgers." They look great and healthy.

I try to advocate whenever possible the advantages of breeding your own rabbit meat or purchasing rabbit meat from a reputable breeder. What other animal can produce the same quantity and quality of meat in such a small space?

If interested, or at least curious, why not visit the Scott Rea project and dine on "Bunny Burgers" tonight?

And if you like what you see and want some fresh rabbit meat, give me a call.