OLDS, Alta. — Some farmers feel like they are in a Catch 22 when it comes to educating people about rabbit meat.
The Alberta Rabbit Producers Association has a small processing facility in northern Alberta, but the meat is used for pet food rather than human consumption until the plant receives a provincial licence.
“We have customers that really want to sell Alberta raised rabbit, but until we can get that slaughter facility sorted out, we have got a problem with access,” said Marion Popkin of the association.
The Raw-Bitz plant processes 1,000 rabbits a month.
Rabbits for human consumption can be processed at other provincially inspected establishments, but these abattoirs are busy and can fit in rabbits only when there is a break in their schedule.
“Most of the rabbits in store now come either from China or Quebec,” Popkin said in an interview.
China is the world’s number one rabbit producer and exporter. About 1.2 billion rabbits a year are processed globally.
Farmers are interested in producing rabbits because they are prolific with seven pregnancies a year, but Popkin wants to make sure they are well treated and raised in proper facilities.
That is leading to the first code of practice for commercial rabbit production in North America, she told the Alberta Farm Animal Care annual meeting in Olds March 23.
“We strongly encourage that every rabbit that is bred has an exit point,” she said.
“We don’t need any more animals, we don’t need to add to the welfare case load. These animals are easy to raise and it is easy to get out of control.”