In the light of economic, global and dietary climate concerns, why not begin to consider rabbit as an alternative to chicken?
“Floppy” was a Friend
As a youth, rabbit was frequently prepared at the home of my grandparents. From rural Texas and Central Louisiana, they had a friend from whom they purchased rabbit, venison, seasonal fish and game fowl. The meats they sourced were reminiscent of their childhoods. Meal preparations were simple, hearty and delicious. My grandmother’s gravy, often from the smothering of chicken, rabbit or liver, is the best I’ve had to date. When available, the rabbit’s gravy was often a delightful and substantial breakfast. My perception of the delectable rabbit has never changed. The night my father brought home a lovely, young, white flippity-flop as a reward for receiving straight A’s on my report card, I considered the new pet “possible food.” I never forgot about Grandmother’s delicious smothered rabbit. I knew one day, “Floppy’s” fate would be met. My father, an animal lover and a country boy, was not above spinning a yarn and serving us the beloved pet for dinner. Although it never happened, I reminded myself daily of the possibility.
Reacquaintance with a Childhood Friend
I didn’t eat rabbit again until I was 27 years old when my friends held their first annual “Who’s the Betty to Beat” cook-off. Participants drew vintage Betty Crocker recipe cards and were challenged to recreate the dish with personal touch, modern flair and “Betty Crocker-ness.” My card was “Chicken Cacciatore.” I elected to use rabbit to replace the chicken as my personal touch and modern flair, as I had grown weary of chicken. As the default protein, served regularly, eaten nearly daily and often featured, chicken and I had developed a relationship which required a generous amount of space. A short time passed and again, I ate rabbit. I worked as a waitress at a local, regional Italian kitchen. With great enthusiasm, I’d sell the house preparation, “cacciatore” or “in the style of the hunter.” The rabbit’s leg quarters were braised in stock, wine, tomatoes, carrots and onions served fork tender, as a panino with montasio and sour cabbage. It was often my shift meal before I left the restaurant to begin my nightly haunt.
Bugs Never Surrenders, without a Catch
The healthiest meat for consumers comes at a cost which is considerably higher than all other regularly consumed meats in the U.S. A whole rabbit now costs around $7.50/lb (up from $6.00/lb on average, in 2013) for a five-pound fryer with organs. Yet, rabbit is rapidly becoming, the original “other white meat” amongst the adventurous cooks, diners, and crowds who support sustainability. Rabbit is a specialty item typically found on menus of European restaurants. Higher costs are directly related to the rate at which the meat is consumed and produced. Now, rabbits are locally grown, small farmed products and are not subsidized by the United States government.
What this means for the consumer is meat that is low in fat and rich in flavor, at lower costs for higher quality. . . if you chose to raise them at home. At lower prices, is it not something to consider? Rabbits are the simplest of animals to butcher at home. They are also safer to consume as they have a lower cooking temperature, are raised off the ground, can be easily raised at home, and in nearly any climate for the highest quality production.
A Long Way to Hippity-hop…
Historically, a food of the rural dwellers of meager means world wide, in America, rabbits have maintained the profile of friend, favorite furry and giver of eggs, as per its association with Easter. As times shift, so will the role of rabbits. The costs and consumer ranking amongst America’s top consumed meats will also shift. And we will look forward to innovative creations from “foodies”, research and production from the environmentally conscious and advocates, all working to continue to shine new light on the rational delicacy.