If you’ve resolved to eat healthier in the New Year, consider adding rabbit to your menu. Research has shown that pound for pound, rabbit meat is more nutritious, leaner, and lower in cholesterol and calories than chicken, beef, or veal.
According to www.livestrong.org, a 4-ounce portion of rabbit contains only 175 calories. It is high in protein and rich in iron, magnesium, and vitamins B6 and B12. B vitamins regulate homocystine levels in the body. Homocystine is a marker for inflammation and too much can lead to serious health problems. Rabbit also contains riboflavin (B2). Riboflavin supports the production of glutathione, an important antioxidant for heart health. Cardiologists are recommending rabbit as the meat of choice for patients with heart disease.
Rabbit tastes slightly different than other meats. It has a light flavor with a nutty aftertaste. Young rabbits, called fryers, usually weigh around two pounds and are prepared similarly to young chickens. Older rabbits have darker, firmer meat and can be used in stews or casseroles. Domestic rabbit portions can be purchased at specialty markets, although some supermarkets carry frozen rabbit seasonally. Domestic rabbit meat is inspected and graded for quality by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
If you are unable to find rabbit meat in your area, rabbits can easily be raised in the backyard, or even indoors. All that is required to raise a few rabbits is a cage, inexpensive commercial rabbit food, hay or grass, and fresh water. The rabbit cage should provide at least four square feet of space per rabbit and provide shelter from the elements if they are kept outdoors. Rabbits mature quickly and can breed at a young age. One ten-pound female rabbit can produce 320 pounds of meat in a year, according to www.citygirlfarming.com. The rabbit breeds most often raised for meat in the United States are California Giants, New Zealand, and Checkered Giant. These breeds are considered mature enough to “harvest” at three months.
If you like to hunt or know someone who does, wild rabbits are common in most areas, and just as nutritious as domestic rabbit. Be sure to check your state’s game laws regarding rabbit hunting.