I have to admit that when Kay and Steve from Song Away Farm reached out to me to write an article about their meat rabbit farm I was a bit apprehensive. After all, I come from the world of cute little Easter bunnies and stories like Peter Rabbit. The idea of meat rabbits was, well a bit “unappetizing” to me.
I try to keep an open mind and boldly agreed to meet with Kay and Steve to see their operation. I have to say I was more than impressed.
I know there are two types of people out there. Those who will think, “Hmmm, rabbit? Sounds tasty.” And those who are completely appalled at the idea of eating a small furry creature.
Before you judge, lets look at the facts. Rabbit is indeed a popular choice of meat in many countries and is sold in many gourmet restaurants. It has an extremely low carbon footprint, is very high in easily digestible protein and is low in fat. And as clichéd as this sounds, it tastes like chicken…or so I’m told.
I won’t lie. I have not tasted rabbit…yet. Though I have been offered a sample if I bring my boyfriend by in the near future.
Kay and Steve impressed me with their setup. Their rabbits are better cared for than most pets. Each animal has a spacious cage with plenty of room to move around and stretch out. All cages were clean with fresh water and food. The barn they are kept in is clean and airy and does not get colder than forty degrees. Charts are kept to keep track of each rabbit’s health and breeding schedule. Food is kept to nutritional alfalfa with other oats and seeds for treats
On closer inspection I noted that all the rabbits had very clean, shiny fur and bright eyes, all signs of good health. None of the rabbits exhibited any signs of stress and any kits (babies) were happily bouncing around with their siblings and mother.
Kay and Steve raise a few different breeds of meat rabbits that come from show quality stock. The Californian appeared most prevalent and is recognized by its white color and black points on the ears, nose and feet. The New Zealand’s tend to be all white “albino” rabbits (though they do come in black). They also have Americans, which are also all white with pink eyes. They also have a few other breeds that are mainly used for meat and some for their pelts. Yes, they are all cute, but beyond that they are strong healthy food quality rabbits.
Most factory farmed beef or pork are raised on soy, corn products and fishmeal, all of which are expensive to produce. Rabbits, on the other hand, survive and thrive on alfalfa and a variety of seeds and grains, making them an inexpensive food source. Rabbits can produce six pounds of meat on the same amount of food and water it would take a cow to produce one pound.
Rabbits grow quickly and are processed between 8 to 10 weeks when they reach an ideal weight of five-pounds. A five-pound rabbit will provide about two to two and a half pounds of meat. The average cost of rabbit meat is between $6 and $8 per pound. Prices get higher as you get near areas like New York and California.
And lest we forget, rabbits multiply prolifically. That’s a fancy way of saying they multiply like rabbits. A female rabbit or doe can produce about 5 litters a year with six to nine kits per litter. That means a doe can produce sixty pounds or more of meat per year.
Manure from rabbits can be used immediately in gardens and is high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Rabbits also don’t take up much room. From a sustainability point of view, rabbit just makes sense.
Regardless of your opinion on eating rabbit, it is a healthier alternative to other meats and provides the most nutrients for the least amount of work. Why then, you ask, do we not see more rabbit meat in stores? For better or worse (depending on how you look at it) rabbits do not do well in large-scale factory farming, something our country has become reliant on.
If any of you have done your research, you know that most of the meat you buy and eat from a grocery store is raised and processed based on factory methods, which means the animals are under continued stress and are usually in poor condition. Rabbits are sensitive to their environment and are high-stress animals…probably a byproduct of being one of natures more favorite entrees. Rabbits would not survive, let alone thrive in factory farming settings
That leaves the small farmer who takes into consideration the overall environment and health of their stock. Only farms that ensure their rabbits are well cared for in a healthy, non-stressful environment are successful.
If you like rabbit or have ever been interested in trying it, check out Song Away Farm for conscientiously farmed rabbit meat. Their prices are more than reasonable and their farming practices are top notch.
Kay and Steve sell only “fryers,” which are the most tender and can be used in all types of recipes. In most cases, you can replace chicken with rabbit when cooking as rabbit meat, like chicken, takes on the flavors and spices you use.
If you are interested in trying it, here are some recipes they have shared. You can check out their website here.
Song Away’s Cream of Rabbit Soup
Recipe adapted from Food Network Kitchens
1/2 cup unsalted butter *we added a little more so the flour would mix in better!
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
2 stalks celery (with leaves), chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic minced *we added this just because we love garlic
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
7 cups chicken broth
dried parsley to taste
dried thyme to taste thyme
dried tarragon to taste
1 bay leaf
2 3/4 cups cooked, diced rabbit meat *a little more is ok!
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 teaspoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon kosher salt *we omitted this since we used broth that had sodium in it
and we added about a 1/2c pearl barley to make it a little heartier…we think brown rice would be delicious too!
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Boil 2 1/2lb of rabbit meat in 8 cups of chicken broth until cooked & debone as needed.
Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and carrots and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft. Add the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 2 minutes more.
Pour in the broth and bring to a boil while whisking constantly. Add the parsley, thyme, tarragon and bay leaf to the soup. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Stir in the rabbit and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.
Whisk the heavy cream, sherry, and salt into the soup and season with pepper to taste.
At this point we transfer the soup to a crockpot on low and have it ready for supper. But you can divide among soup bowls, sprinkle the top of each soup with the chopped parsley and serve immediately. ENJOY!
Song Away’s Sweet & Sour Rabbit
Recipe adapted from centercutcook.com “How to Make Sweet & Sour Chicken”.
- approximately 1 pound of rabbit tenderloin
- 1 cup corn starch
- 2 eggs beaten
- salt, pepper, garlic powder to season the rabbit *we enjoy it spicier so we will add more garlic, onion powder and red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1 green pepper chunked
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper chunked
- 1 cup pineapple chunks *we enjoy more pineapple so we add more & cut back on the chunked peppers!
- we add maraschino cherries to add more color vs. the red peppers
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1 cup vinegar
- 1 1/2tablespoons worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon course black pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 325
- Cut rabbit into 1″ chunks & season with spices
- Dip each piece of rabbit into cornstarch , then egg
- Brown each rabbit piece in hot oil in a skillet
- Place browned rabbit in a baking dish with pineapples and pepper chunks
- In a large bowl whisk sauce ingredients together and pour over rabbit & pineapples
- Bake for an hour turning the chicken every 15 minutes
- Remove from oven and place rabbit, pineapple and pepper chunks over a bed of rice!
* Like any recipe adapt this one to your liking! If we have a busy day ahead we will skip oven baking and put all of the ingredients in a crock pot on low setting and just make the rice when we are ready to eat.
Song Away’s Rabbit Asparagus Risotto
Adapted from Simple Recipes
2 Rabbit Tenderloins season with black pepper & Italian seasoning
2 Tbsp butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine (or 1 Tbsp lemon juice and 3 Tbsp water)
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound asparagus, trimmed, tips cut off, tough skins of the spears peeled and the spears cut into thin disks seasoned with onion & garlic powder
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
1. Cook rabbit tenderloins in olive oil, once complete remove from pan & cut into slices. Add cut asparagus to the pan season with onion powder & garlic powder add a couple tablespoons of white wine and cook on low until al dente.
2. In a 3 or 4-quart saucepan, heat 1-tablespoon butter on medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for a minute or two, until translucent. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring until nicely coated.
3. While the shallots are cooking, bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan.
4. Add the wine. Slowly stir, allowing the rice to absorb the wine. Once the wine is almost completely absorbed, add 1/2 cup of hot stock to the rice. Continue to stir until the liquid is almost completely absorbed, adding more stock in 1/2-cup increments. Stir often to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking and stirring rice, adding a little bit of broth at a time, cooking and stirring until it is absorbed, until the rice is tender, but still firm to the bite, about 20-25 minutes. With the last ladle of stock, add the rabbit & asparagus. Turn off the heat.
- Gently stir in the Parmesan cheese and the remaining 1-tablespoon butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.