A study was conducted to evaluate the fatty acid (FA) composition and sensory properties of meat from rabbits housed in the open-air in movable colony cages on pasture during the fattening period. A total of 60 rabbits were reared using conventional husbandry practises and subsequently divided into two groups at a live weight of about 2.0 kg and at 62 days old. The indoor group was kept in conventional bi-cellular cages (2 animals per cage, 0.07 m2 per rabbit), while the open-air group was reared in movable colony cages (6 animals per cage, 0.17 m2 per rabbit) on a polyphyta natural pasture. The grass was cut on the pasture prior to moving the cages so that the rabbits would not be able to eat the grass. Both groups were fed ad libitum a commercial diet for fattening rabbits. The rabbits were slaughtered when 13 weeks old. Fourteen carcasses from each experimental group were randomly collected and hind leg and loin meat were used to determine the intramuscular lipid content, FA composition and sensory attributes. Rabbits housed open-air in movable cages exhibited lower carcass weight (1110 vs 1243 g; P<0.01) and lipid content of the hind leg meat (3.61 vs 5.18%; P<0.01) as well as a higher content of PUFA (36.9 vs 32.5%; P<0.05) and arachidonic acid (5.9 vs 1.9%; P<0.05). However, no differences were found in the n-6/n-3 PUFA ratio. The quantitative descriptive analyses of the meat (Longissimus lumborum muscle) sensory properties did not show any differences between the experimental groups.
rabbit; open-air rearing; meat; fatty acid composition; sensory properties