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A look at the rise of the rabbit meat market in SA

Rabbit hind quarter. Picture: Picture: SA Rabbit Company

Rabbit hind quarter. Picture: Picture: SA Rabbit Company

Published Jul 23, 2022

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They are cute - and highly digestible.

Rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, high in protein, and low in calories, rabbit is speedily becoming the even-newer meat in South Africa.

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So say chefs, rabbit farmers, and meat producers, who are consuming more rabbits than at any time since the global war.

Fresh or frozen, the rabbit meat market in SA is rising steadily. Rabbit meat can be used in most ways that chicken is used.

Like other lean meat, poultry, and fish, it is a good source of high-quality protein. The meat is fine-grained and flavourful.

Earlier this week, I tasted rabbit meat for the first time, and it was very palatable. Honestly, it is a lot like chicken but tastes more flavourful and has a delicate texture. What I also picked up is that rabbit meat has less fat, fewer calories, and more protein than either beef or chicken.

Below, we take a look into the rise of the rabbit meat market in SA.

What is rabbit and rabbit meat?

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Rabbit is a type of game meat that comes from the hare family. These animals are farmed for their meat, fur, and even their pelts, which are used to make clothing and other items.

Rabbit meat is considered to be a healthy option since it is lean and low in calories, fat, and cholesterol. It is also a good source of protein, vitamin B12, niacin, and phosphorus.

Frozen rabbit pies. Picture: SA Rabbit Company

Speaking to the managing director at SA Rabbit Company, Kholekile Mbanga, he said rabbit meat consumption in SA is not a foreign concept altogether because, as young boys, they are used to hunt rabbits and enjoyed the meat.

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Mbanga said this practice has diminished over time due to the scarcity of wild rabbits, and the low uptake of rabbit meat can only be attributed to a lack of accessibility and availability in our retail stores.

He said some of the situations that are limiting the growth of the industry include lack of exposure and understanding of the product, the perception that rabbit is a pet and should not be consumed, and that the industry is still struggling to get the necessary recognition and support required to establish an industry of this magnitude.

Asked about the reports circulating that rabbit meat is ‘expensive’, Mbanga said he would not say it is expensive except that the cost of production is still high due to economies of scale.

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He concluded that, as South Africans, we should be eating more rabbit meat (our country is rated very high in the world's obesity standards and lots of related ailments) could be a solution. Mbanga said it is good for chronic gout sufferers and good, easily digestible protein.

Senzo Dlamini, founder of rabbit meat restaurant Oz Lavida Bites, said most people are not well informed about whether the meat can be eaten or not because most people still think that rabbits can only be kept as pets ,and they are not aware that people eat rabbit meat across the world and the fact that in SA, we have fewer initiatives that are introducing the meat - this has led to a delay on the market for the industry.

Rabbit kebabs. Picture: SA Rabbit Company

“There is a lack of information about the industry as a whole that it still comes as a surprise to some people that there are farms that deal with rabbits, and the fact that most butcheries do not sell rabbit meat is one of the most limiting factors for the industry,” said Dlamini.

Noting rabbit meat's health benefits, he said it has the highest percentage of digestible proteins compared to other meat while also having the lowest amount of fat.

Ideal for pregnant women because of its nutrients, with vitamins, proteins, and minerals, can eliminate high blood pressure and is good for people with heart disease.Dlamini said rabbit meat is affordable and has a lot of health benefits giving you more value for your money and health.

SA Rabbit Company

RabCo was established in early 2020 to try and address some of the industry challenges like market development.

The company is situated in a small farming community of Boston in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Since its inception, they have provided fresh and superior quality rabbit meat products across SA.

They are committed to offering exceptional quality processed and unprocessed rabbit meat products such as pies, kebabs, whole rabbit, and wors, as well as rabbit portions.

Their frozen rabbit pies cost R30. Wors is R70, kebabs are R70, while a whole rabbit costs R95. You can purchase all this and more from their website.

Why rabbit meat? Mbanga said it is a healthy protein source and it is a new industry that is far from saturation, and it is one of the possible solutions to our country's socio-economic challenges, for example, joblessness. He said, at the moment, they aim to continue with their endeavours to be the leading producer and distributor of high-quality rabbit meat and to pursue the recognition and support of the industry by the government.

Email: [email protected]

Call: 033 001 1406

Oz Lavida Bites

Are you aware of chicken dust? Well-known braai meat from SA’s townships? Chicken dust is a reflection of classic local street food - seasoned chicken pieces, char-grilled over open flames on the street side of ekasi, giving it a tasty fusion of signature ashy smoke and pepper flavour. Well, Oz Lavida Bites does rabbit ‘dust’ meat. Dlamini started the business this year in May, where he only sold raw rabbit meat. People who were buying the meat kept on asking for more, and that is when he saw an opportunity because no one was selling it in his township.

“I expected the business to start slowly because it was something new for everyone, but instead, I got an unforgettable surprise of my life when people fell in love with the meat, and it is now selling like hot cakes,” he said.

At Oz Lavida Bites, you can purchase the meat raw or cooked. You can get a full large rabbit for R150, a medium for R130, half for R70, and a quarter for R30.

Oz Lavida Bites is located in Umlazi V-section, 54 Ngxingweni Drive.

Call: 074 685 5276

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