Newborn bunnies are not cute. Maybe the maternal “ah” at the vulnerable pink lumps in Snowflake’s nesting box will come from me when they get a coat of fur, but for now, not so much.
Snowflake kindled her four kits sometime in the wee hours of the morning yesterday, and I took a peek this afternoon. Four, all alive and spastically twitching, a normal habit at this day-old age. They are the result of 10 seconds of bliss between Snowflake and a buck 31 days ago.
We’ve written of the ups and downs in starting our rabbitry here, so we’re glad at the new arrivals. Since the date of that last post, we acquired another female, Sahsa2 (due to kindle on March 26), and our new buck, Cooper, named after a member of our church who had suggested we name our own newborn child after him- our new Californian buck was the best we could do.
The kits will stay with mom for another five to six weeks, spend a month on a combination of pasture and pellets, and at the ripe old age of 70 days on June 1, face the result of our decision-making: freezer, sold, or kept.
Sounds harsh, I know, and especially so because department stores in the US have spent the last half century determining that fluffy white rabbits bearing plastic eggs filled with chocolate is the true meaning of Easter. But these are meat rabbits, and that’s why we raise them. They are an incredible source of incredibly lean meat, all white, so no need to breed genetic-freak chickens that can’t stand beyond the age of six weeks. They’re quieter and cleaner, easier to butcher, reproduce like, uh, rabbits, and they provide a whole lot of soil-enriching manure that can be applied straight to the garden beds without burning the plants.
Rabbit meat has a tighter texture than the white meat on chicken and turkey. It isn’t a strong-flovered meat, certainly not tasting of wild game. It’s a mellow-fellow that is actually an easy means of venturing beyond the standard chicken fare for dinner. We’ve had them fried in buttermilk, stewed with taters and other garden veggies, braised in a strong-scented mustard sauce with a tang that will leave you savoring the accompanying beer. All good, and leaving us to seek out more rabbit recipes. Like homegrown chickens, the younger rabbits are better for frying; the older, better for stewing and braising.
Still, I know, I know. But they’re sooo cute (once they get some fur). How could you? I know, the visiting children to our home will be aghast that we consume these cute creatures, that look at me with hangman’s horror? I guess since we shouldn’t eat rabbit because they are so cute, we should eat more alligator or chihuahua… they are pretty high on the ugly scale. I know, how could you eat the Easter Bunny? Maybe the lamb-eating folks out there should second-think their consumption of chops and rack… an Easter tradition that goes back much further than this hallowed bunny some defend.
Perhaps I sound defensive, attempting to justify our food choices. But really, underneath, it’s knowing there’s an audience out there that might not otherwise look at a food that is actually widely consumed in Europe, that offers an alternative to a factory-style meat raising system rife with poor sanitation and social injustice, and that is no stranger than anything else we have been taught is culturally acceptable to eat. Consuming these rabbits will be both conscious and conscientious for us. If you haven’t already, try it. You just might like it.
So if the brutal talk has not turned you away from the idea of eating Oryctolagus cuniculus, Rachel has made several delicious recipes with ours, most found here from one of Orangevale’s omnivores. While you’re there, give this a read for a thoughtful reflection on why we eat what we eat.
Oh, and if you think that eating rabbits is weird, wait till I tell you about the goat we just bought….