Science - November 30, 2017

‘Rabbit meat can be a very good protein source’

Lieke de Kwant

Her PhD research was on pigs and poultry, but Hsuan Chen knows a thing or two about rabbits as well. That’s why she devoted one of her propositions to these furry mammals.

11-portretje Stelling.jpg

Hsuan Chen from Taiwan graduated with a PhD on 22 November for her study of protein digestion kinetics in pigs and poultry.

Proposition: Rabbits can become the new chickens in urban agriculture.

‘For my research I visited an experimental chicken and rabbit farm in Spain. There is a market for rabbit meat in Spain, Italy and France; people in those countries enjoy eating it. This made me think, because rabbit meat can be a very good protein source. However, the market for it is currently very small in most countries, compared to the market for beef, pork or poultry.

If we want to move towards sustainable forms of animal production, one good way to do so is to keep animals for meat in our own back yards. Most people would then choose chickens. But I say: keep rabbits instead. It seems logical because quite a few people already keep rabbits. Also, rabbits are highly efficient herbivores, which means they thrive on a limited amount of feed. A little grass is enough. And on top of that, they reproduce very fast.

Some people see rabbits more as pets and that might stand in the way of keeping them for meat. But I think it is a matter of education. We can convince people that if we are striving for more sustainability, this is the way to go.

In the Netherlands I guess it shouldn’t be a problem because Flappie the rabbit was eaten for Christmas too... Yes, I know the song by the comedian Youp van ’t Hek. It’s a creepy song! In the end, the father who secretly slaughtered his son’s rabbit for Christmas disappears himself. And you are left wondering if he went the same way as Flappie...’