Small-scale rabbit meat production in the western hemisphere: back to basics?


  • S.D. Lukefahr Texas A&M University



In the Western Hemisphere, in countries where the demand for rabbit meat is low, and where intensive livestock production systems are common (e.g., commercial broiler, swine, and cattle production), it may not be appropriate for rabbit scientists to recommend commercial rabbit production. Commercial-scale rabbit operations might only be justified, at best, when located in proximity to processing plants and(or) to large cities where there is a strong tradition of rabbit meat consumption. The high cost of producing rabbits translates into high consumer prices, which tends to limit sales to that of a luxury or specialty commodity. An alternative, "back to basics" approach is to recommend small-scale or backyard rabbit enterprises. There are a number of clear advantages to this approach. Such a down-scaled unit could represent a more favorable "economy of scale" of production. Generally, feed costs could be reduced through the utilization of homegrown or less expensive feedstuffs, labor could be shared among family members, and less expensive housing and equipment would be needed. Although productívity may decline, economic retums may exceed costs at a higher rate than for commercial operations. In addition to family consumption, local meat sales could become mote competitive because of lower costs of processing and transportation, especially if there are no rabbit meat inspection laws. Small-scale rabbit production would also support integrative practices (e.g., gardening and vermiculture) and potential local markets for rabbit meat and by­products (e.g., tanned skins and rabbit manure as "organic fertilizer''), which could supplement farm revenue. In addition, there are opportunities to develop poor communities through small-scale rabbit projects. This paper propases a "cottage industry'' model of rabbit micro-enterprise development to secure food and economic stability for rural-based small farm families throughout the Western Hemisphere, and to improve the image of rabbit production as a viable activity.


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