In a 1994 report on rabbit production internationally, the estimated global production figure was 1.5 million tons, and Italy, Russia, France, China and Spain topped the list of global producers.
That figure has remained somewhat constant over the last few years, however, there are more and more third world countries in Asia, Africa and South America that are becoming global players in the rabbit farming arena. There are several reasons for this.
The first is demand. In countries like Trinidad, Cameroon and Kenya, competitive pricing has increased the demand for rabbit meat, and higher demand has meant that more small rabbitries are joining the industry all the time.
That competitive pricing is possible because of the low cost of starting a commercial rabbit farming business, the fact that rabbits take up less space, and are less labor intensive than most other commercially farmed meat producing livestock, they do not compete with humans for food crops, and they breed and mature rapidly.
A lot has also been done to promote rabbit meat as an alternative in many countries in Africa and Latin America, including the introduction of rabbit meat in school cafeterias, and, because there are no religious constraints on eating this type of meat, rabbit producers can sell their product in countries that have Islamic, Hindu and Jewish majorities.
In short, it has become clear, at least to authorities in many countries, that rabbit is potentially the most cost effective and sustainable source of meat for the developing world, and that is driving production of rabbits as a food source up. The major barrier that is preventing rabbit meat from becoming a sought after global commodity is not the quality of the meat (it is often compared favorably with most other types of meat), or the cost. It is a psychological barrier, created by the image that rabbits have as pets.
As efforts to promote eating rabbit meat continue, however, there is sure to be a change of mind-set among global consumer populations, and when that does happen, the demand for rabbit meat will certainly climb exponentially. When that happens, we are likely to see many more commercial rabbit farmers starting large-scale operations, and that may mean the end of the small rabbit farmer.
The message is quite clear. If you want to get into commercial rabbit production for meat, the time to do it is now, before the efforts of rabbit farming associations pay off, and large commercial concerns become the norm in this form of livestock farming too.