I've spent far too much time recently researching meat rabbits, breeds and methods of dispatching them. In the past, I've looked into breeding rabbits for fiber, mostly thinking that Angoras would be more up my alley, particularly since the whole processing aspect of meat rabbits is still beyond my comfort level and I know I would be the one left to doing the dispatching.
I'm not entirely new to rabbit husbandry since I had a bunch of bunnies in my childhood. I like the idea of rabbits for fiber, but it's hard to acquire Angoras in my area, and I'm not sure that I have the gumption to knit anything up with the fiber. That is, of course, after mixing it with wool and spinning my own yarn with it. The manure aspect of rabbits certainly intrigues me as a good compost for the garden but, as of yet, I have done nothing regarding raising rabbits. It's been all talk and no action.
I'm also most likely cursed with the only two children on the face of the planet who hate rabbits. For whatever their reasons, they sure ain't sharing them with me. In any case, how did I come about looking up meat rabbits again? Well, my foodie brother was discussing his plans for doing a big Easter event (much like his Poultrygeist event in October with ducks) which, not too surprisingly, involve rabbit as one of the course ingredients. I suggested perhaps raising some rabbits on his behalf as long as he did the dispatching.
Again, not too surprisingly, he was fine with that. He's very interested in knowing exactly where his ingredients come from, and learning how to process rabbits, chickens, goats, etc. is something he has no problem with. So, it looks like we might have some sort of matched interest here.
While looking up meat rabbits, I ran across a number of sites mentioning pastured rabbits, most likely originating from the practice done at Polyface Farms (Joel Salatin of Omnivore's Dilemma fame). Basically, you keep the bunnies in a sort of chicken tractor that gets rotated around so the rabbits have access to fresh clover, grass, weeds and the like.
This is supplemented with traditional rabbit pellets and hay, depending on the time of year. I thought this was a very interesting idea in that it not only is a money saver, but the rabbits are more likely producing a healthier meat and are generally happier hanging out in the grass during decent weather.
Images from Simply Abundant Farm and Weathertop Farm.