This news feature was contributed by Marlon Alexander S. Luistro via thefilipinoconnection.net.
PADRE GARCIA, Batangas – Fil-American Gigi Morris did not meet the bunnies at the posh gambling haven Las Vegas.
She was online, shopping around for rabbit pets for her family’s one-hectare farm in Brgy. Castillo here. There was a rabbit farm owner, from San Antonio, Quezon, who agreed to sell his rabbits for P60,000 (originally for P100,000).
That’s how Morris’ unique rabbit business started, from farming to offering the furry mammal for meals in fine dining restaurants. Raising rabbits and selling these to culinary chefs for them to cook rabbit meat has made Morris’ return to the Philippines a success.
Gigi was dining with her American husband Robert Morris at a high-end restaurant in Las Vegas in late March 2012 when she stumbled upon a wealthy Filipino man who ordered rabbit dish for supper. That gave Gigi the idea to raise rabbits as meat for fine dining restaurants, targeting culinary chefs.
Morris would waste no time: upon returning to the Philippines, she immediately bought 120 rabbits and bred them. Once they grew in number, she immediately started to give away rabbit meat samples and invited celebrity chefs to cook and taste them.
“Some of them made a dish out of it, they took a picture of it so I was able to use them (for promotion). That’s how I started and I don’t even have to personally market my product. Now, whenever somebody asks them where they can find a rabbit meat then they would refer them to me,” Morris said.
Three months after her return, on July 2012, Morris also held the first Kuneho Festival in their farm. The Morris family offered farm tours and lectures and, more importantly, invited some celebrity chefs to cook different rabbit cuisines for taste tests.
Today, Morris’ Robby Rabbitry Farm is among the country’s growing producers of rabbit meat, earning an average monthly income of at least P5,000 from selling 10 rabbit heads and meat approximately sold at farmgate prices of P350 to P450 per kilo. Dressed rabbits, which weigh about 1.5 kilos are also sold respectively at P550 per kilo.
“It’s difficult to push for something if you don’t believe in it,” Morris said. “I think I’ve found my market.”
Rabbits are easy to raise, as well as to cook, Morris, a fashion designer, explains.
Rabbits are actually easy to raise as a doe can already produce eight-to-12 kittens for a gestation period of 30 days. So if you have 40 rabbits today (20 males and 20 females), they can already produce up to 240 kittens monthly and up to 720 for three breeding cycles in a year.
Rabbits have a 20 percent mortality rate, but Morris said that people should be careful what they feed them as these animals generally have a sensitive digestive system, making them more vulnerable to sickness.
Therefore, if the rabbit is used to this kind of diet then you have to constantly feed them with that diet. Should you plan to replace the said food then you have to do it gradually until they get used to the new diet.
As for cooking these rabbits, rabbit meats are generally labelled into two: fryers and stewers.
They are easily distinguishable as fryers are young rabbits aged four-to-seven months old and their meat is tender and fine grained. Stewers, on the other hand, are aged at least eight months. Their meat is less tender than fryer and their flesh is firm and coarse-grained.
To learn how Morris’ The Robby Rabbitry helps promote the agro-tourism in the province, continue reading here.
Photo credit: The Robby Rabbitry Official Facebook Page