Rabbit production can ease energy shortage in the EU

Animal Nutrition Views

Dr. Ioannis Mavromichalis is an animal nutritionist holding graduate degrees from Kansas State University (MSc) and University of Illinois (PhD). He is the Principal of Ariston Nutrition Consulting International. He may be contacted at [email protected]. See all author stories and blogs.

Rabbit production can ease energy shortage in the EU

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3 reasons why rabbit meat is not as popular as it could be across Europe

Rabbits are as good as chickens. They are highly prolific, they have excellent taste and a healthy meat profile, and they are super efficient in converting feed to meat. They can even utilize high-fiber diets better than poultry, reducing the need for high-cereal feeds. And, above all, they can thrive in cold climates without supplemental heat. Finally, Europe is accustomed to consuming rabbits, whereas the U.S. is not. But, it is in the EU that rabbits can help ride the current food/feed/energy crisis from the ongoing war in Ukraine.

So, why aren’t rabbits already on menus in Europe? The reasons are many, but I will focus here only on three.

  1. It takes time to increase rabbit production as new facilities need to be erected and people be trained, etc. In other words, it is a matter of logistics, which is cured by time. It also needs new capital, and right now is not the best of times to borrow from banks as interest rates keep increasing. Bad timing for everything, indeed.
  2. Many believe that the ongoing war will end soon, and cereals and gas will resume their flow westwards. I beg to disagree, and I believe many in the higher echelons of EU management have started to realize we are never going back to cheap energy (in any form). But, it takes time for EU to react to anything so, again, it will be some time before incentives are given to focus on less energy-demanding animal species.
  3. Not all EU countries are accustomed to consuming rabbit meat. Spain and France have a healthy rabbit industry and their citizens are accustomed to eating rabbits. Other countries, and new generations, consider this meat as alien. So, it will take some education and marketing.

May I suggest removing the head from the carcass? I know from personal experiences that this is the biggest obstacle from convincing my family to rabbit dinners. I still remember the reaction of my mother when I brought home my first slaughtered rabbit. I understand rabbit producers and slaughterhouses consider the head as part of the sellable carcass, but this is disturbing to people used to buying other meats. Even chickens are no longer sold with their heads on – a practice I still remember very vividly.