Those who patronize restaurants which source meat locally may be surprised to find rabbit on the menu there. However, for at least one local farmer, raising rabbits has become one way to grow business beyond the local farmers' market.
Eli Creek Farms, located in Connersville, Ind., continues to make chicken, beef, pork, rabbit, quail, turkey, pheasant, and duck, available at farmers' markets. They have recently joined the Let Us Eat Well Farmers' Market in Cheviot, and, locally, they continue to participate in the Wyoming Farmers' Market. However, their rabbit and quail is distributed to local restaurants through the Indianapolis distributor, Meat the Rabbit.
Nick Carter is the entrepreneur behind Meat the Rabbit. He was asked to take us along from farm to table, and he also provided some insight into the business decisions that were made along the way.
"Eli Creek Farms is our number one supplier of rabbit," he said. When Jon Godar, the farmer at Eli Creek, wanted to diversify and grow beyond the local farmers' markets, he expanded his rabbit business to serve the pet food industry. "When I started, I didn't think I'd find a farmer who was already scaled to meet my needs", Nick said. Eli Creek Farms chemical-free rabbitry was ready. "I also distribute his pheasant and quail," Nick said. Through partnerships with Local Foods in Chicago, and Piazza Produce in Indianapolis, Meat the Rabbit is available to restaurateurs throughout Indiana, southwest Ohio, western Kentucky, and eastern Illinois. In the Cincinnati area, their products are retailed at Jungle Jim's and Remke Markets.
Anne Kearney, chef and owner at Rue Dumaine in Centerville, Ohio, told about the preparation and availability of rabbit at her French restaurant. "Rabbit is very popular," she said. For example, two dozen rabbits will supply her menu for eight to ten weeks, and with a number of ways to prepare it, little will go to waste. "The tenderloins are delicious prepared with green peppercorns, mushrooms, and a little Dijon mustard," Chef Anne said. Other parts might be braised and pulled, or prepared in a confit or terrine.
Anne Kearney has one of the most impressive backgrounds in the area as a French chef, and readers are encouraged to click on her name to learn more. For those interested in learning more about rabbit as a meal, or how to prepare it at home, the "suggested by the author" stories below will prove useful.