We Try Locally-Farmed Rabbit Meat for the First Time at KC RabbitryJune 11, 2017
Warning: Some of the photos in this article may be considered disturbing to some. Please proceed with caution.
Katherine Calingasan and Cliff Ballesteros have built for themselves an idyllic piece of Eden. Their own backyard grows 70% of the food that they consume. They tell us their families joke that if the zombies ever come, they know whose home to find refuge in. Chickens, fresh eggs, fruits, vegetables, herbs, even mushrooms—the organic farm is also sustained by solar power and a newly built windmill that makes us of upcycled materials, and the farm uses recycled water. The couple are gifted with green thumbs, curious minds, an addiction to googling everything they can about integrated farming, and a belief in consuming clean, heart-healthy and organic produce. But the most interesting (and interestingly enough, one of the healthiest meats to consume) things you will find growing at their farm is rabbit.
Rabbit is consumed in several parts of the world, most notably France, Spain (the iconic and traditional Paella Valenciana uses rabbit meat), and Italy, though it is consumed all over the world. Ballesteros calls rabbit meat a clean slate, for its very clean flavor that can be used as a background to any dish that will make the other ingredients shine. Despite the strong influences of Spanish cuisine in our own country, rabbit meat is unfortunately one tradition that did not carry on to the Philippines, but because of its high health factor (it’s got more protein than beef or chicken, while being very low in calories) and sustainability (they easily reproduce and can easily be fed, and don’t require much space), we’re making the case that it should have.
Calingasan and Ballesteros have been caring for rabbits for 6 years, and have a steady base of clients to whom they supply. But over the years, they have shifted their focus from raising rabbits to teaching others to do so themselves with their Rabbits 101 classes, hosted once a month at their home-cum-farm. With his students from the intensive rabbit workshops, they created a collective of rabbit farmers and provide each other support when it comes to demand. Many of the rabbit farmers have their own budding integrated farms, and the collective sometimes barters with one another with their backyard products.
Ballesteros admits that the first time he processed rabbit meat, it was surprisingly emotionally hard for him. It was of great importance that they process the meat in as humane a way as possible. The method they use is called cervical dislocation, considered an ethical method of animal euthanasia by experts for being painless and quick.
We try rabbit for the first time, and it surprisingly has a taste and and texture that is (excuse the cliché but we stand by it) comparable to chicken, only extremely lean, with a much cleaner and subtler taste, and more compact and fine in texture. We try the rabbit both plain and in a deliciously comforting cheesy kaldareta, prepared by Calingasan as we roam around their private farm. Because the meat, they tell us, usually should sit for 24 hours to get tender before you cook it, but they speed through the process with a pressure cooker.
The gracious and nurturing couple live a fascinatingly sustainable lifestyle in their quiet corner in Cavite, where they are surrounded by the cool air made even cooler by the greenery that surrounds them. As we step back out into the gray streets and hop in the car for a long ride back to the city, we contemplate the social biases that is considered in debating what meat are appropriate for consumption, balancing the conversation with the urgent need to temper the ecological effects of mass meat production in feasible ways. Though there is the concern of price (rabbit meat currently has a market value of PHP 500/kilo), its entrance into the mainstream could address the inaccessibility of the current price point. Though the first hurdle rabbit meat has to face is social acceptance of consuming it, and we wonder if it would be difficult for Filipino consumers to face. After all, it tastes like chicken.
KC Rabbitry breeds rabbit meat and conducts monthly rabbit-raising workshops for aspiring rabbit breeders.