Rabbit meat is high in protein and low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium when compared to most of the meats eaten in the U.S. Rabbit meat has great potential to feed people in developing countries and could be promoted in the U.S. as a healthful, natural meat and a small farm asset (Fanatico, Anne. “Rabbit Production.” ATTRA. October 2005).
On his family farm in Indianapolis, Nick Carter wanted to know whether meat rabbitries could be a new revenue opportunity for small family farms. He applied for an NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher grant to conduct a feasibility study.
Working with Moody Meats of Ladoga, they determined the price required for processing and packaging of the product at a point they knew to be profitable. Meanwhile, Carter charted the income and expenses required to start and operate a new rabbitry. He learned that capital expenses for land or buildings would effectively eliminate any projected income, and that the single highest overhead cost in establishing a rabbitry was feed.
Carter collected feedback from retail and collected sales numbers. He discovered that retail sales were low, and the consumer surveys he conducted indicated that many shoppers were not adventurous enough to take the rabbit home and prepare it. However, he discovered that area chefs were interested in locally grown rabbit. Nearly 75 percent of their sales during the course of this project were to restaurants.
Through his work with Moody Meats and the Indiana Board of Animal Health, Carter helped to conduct the first ever state-inspected rabbit slaughter in Indiana, opening the door to other processors in the state. He now has several chefs in Central Indiana excited about the potential of rabbit on their menus, and producers excited to expand their operations to meet the current demand.
Having discovered the temperament of the consumers in the marketplace toward rabbit meat, especially in the Midwest, Carter believes that the method they used to determine a market in Indianapolis could be reproduced in similar metropolitan areas around the Midwest.
View Nick's presentation on this project, from the 2014 Farmers Forum, through NCR-SARE's YouTube playlist. Visit www.youtube.com/NCRSAREvideo for this and other videos.
Want more information? See the related SARE grant:
- Commercial Meat Rabbitry Feasibility Study (FNC12-850)