Raw materials. We have just entered the Year of the Rabbit. In any case, if we are to believe the Chinese, who celebrated the furry animal, exactly, on January 22. Far from the precious tiger or the extraordinary dragon, which it rubs shoulders with in the Chinese zodiac calendar, the rabbit is one of the most common in the former Middle Kingdom. Its population is estimated at around 500 million people. Raised both for their meat and for their skin and coat.
Compared to the largest herd in the world, the French sector is modest. But on a European scale, it still ranks third, behind Spain and Italy. “We produced 26,000 tonnes of rabbit meat in 2022, compared to 50,000 tonnes in Spain and 30,000 tonnes in Italy”, specifies Guy Airiau, president of the Interprofessional Rabbit Committee. Its own breeding, located in Saint-Etienne-du-Bois, in Vendée, marketed 40,000 animals in 2022.
If, by nature, the rabbit is a very prolific animal, on the contrary, the breeder of French rabbits is a species in the process of rapid attrition. Their number is dwindling. “There are still 700 professional breeders in the territory, located mainly in Brittany, Pays de la Loire, Normandy and the North. And in the next ten years, 30% of them will assert their right to retirement.explains Frédéric Blot, of the National Federation of Rabbit Producer Groups (Fenalap), himself based in Ille-et-Vilaine.
From the cage to the park
At the same time, rabbit consumption is losing ground year after year. “It is decreasing by 6% per year and has fallen to 400 grams per year and per inhabitant. The decline is especially noticeable among young people., says Mr. Airiau. It is true that civet is hardly present on the menu of fast foods or canteens. Most of the marketing goes through supermarkets, under the brands of specialized companies such as Loeul & Piriot or LDC. One of the challenges of the rabbit industry is therefore to do everything to ensure that consumption takes off again. But also to stick to societal expectations.
However, the breeding of rabbits has long been an ostrich. While the living conditions of laying hens hit the headlines, those of hairballs were of little interest. A situation that is changing, while Europe is talking about the scheduled end of cage farming. The rabbit gets its ear pulled. Animal welfare associations have denounced certain excesses.
Without mentioning access to the outdoors, reserved for organic, the sector is beginning to talk about parks for around thirty animals, whose floors would no longer be wire mesh, but plastic surfaces. It remains to be seen how quickly the rabbits will jump from the cage to the park. And who will finance this great leap forward. Especially since the financial situation of farmers must be strengthened. “Faced with the rise in raw material prices, the price per kilo of rabbit ex-farm fell from 2 euros in mid-2021 to 2.50 euros. We would need ten cents more”, believes Mr. Biot. An upgrade so that rabbit breeders don’t just have skin and bones…
Source: Le Monde