Processed meat-based products from local rabbit meat producers may offer an alternative option in the market and livelihood opportunity for raisers in Palawan.
Audie Latosa, a local rabbit meat producer, estimates that nearly 30 percent of rabbit breeders in Palawan are currently attempting to produce various processed meat products. In 2021, he began producing meat after three years of raising rabbits.
He makes siomai, skinless longganisa, and lumpia. Aside from processed foods, he experimented with cooking rabbit meat in various ways, including lechon, steak, curry, adobo, and Bicol express. Latosa got his ideas from the web and improvised on his own.
“Ang rabbit kasi madaling alagaan, mabilis siyang dumami. Pwede ka mag-alaga kahit sa backyard lang, hindi naman siya mabaho, hindi maingay. Ang meat niya ay low cholestorel and high in protein,” he said.
“Sa demand, hindi pa ganoon pero consumable na rin siya. Ang takot kasi ng customer, natatak sa isip nila na ang rabbit is for pet, hindi nila nalalasahan kasi tingin nila na hindi maganda ang lasa. Tulad ng mga exotic na ibang product,” he added.
Latosa is one of the province’s meat-based producers, with product offerings that only circulate locally. Through information dissemination, they are still working to encourage residents to consume rabbit meat and meat-based products. He also wants to emphasize that rabbit meat is nutritious and beneficial to those who are dieting and with comorbidities.
The ban on pork-based goods, which are typically used for processed products, was implemented as part of measures to prevent the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) in the province of Palawan. As a result, there are fewer stocks on the market and their prices have gone up.
According to the Provincial Veterinary Office (ProVet), it was lifted in March, and only products from the green zone or ASF-free areas are permitted to enter Palawan. The lifting of the ban was prompted by business complaints about a lack of meat sources to offer tourists.
Latosa said this problem could be addressed by promoting rabbit-based food products as a viable option for the local market. Value-adding, he further explained, is not only limited to processed meat because souvenir items can be made out of their fur.
Many products can be developed if the rabbit meat supply is sustainable, and local raisers like him hope to have a sustainable supply of rabbit meat to sell in public markets by 2023.
“Ang market ng rabbit, hindi lang napupunta sa meat. Tulad ng maneur niya, pwedeng gamitin ng mga naghahalaman, ‘yong balat ng rabbit ay pwedeng gawin bag, keychain– sa sunod, target namin gawin livelihood product ang mga belt, keychain,” he said.
“Ngayon, binabalik namin sa mindset ng breeders na for meat ang rabbit, nag-raise tayo ng rabbit for meat– kung hindi na-sustain ang production ng market sa rabbit, medyo mahihirapan tayo ibalik ‘yong learning ng tao. Hindi sila masasanay na may rabbit– mas maganda kung meron tayong product ng rabbit, daily makikita ng tao, sa gayon masasanay talaga ang tao,” he added.
ProVet support for rabbit meat
Rabbit meat is healthy for locals, according to Dr. Darius Mangcucang of ProVet, but it still needs to be established in the local market. The office also hopes to help raisers sell meat supplies outside of Palawan.
Due to the current number of raisers involved in meat production, massive production in the market is not yet sustainable.
“Isa ‘yan sa gusto namin i-project sa province lalo na nagkaroon tayo ng devolution at magkaroon ng pondo. Hindi lang naman Palawan ang market diyan, pwede natin ilabas sa Cebu, Iloilo, sila sanay sa ganiyang karne. Halimbawa dito tayo mag-produce pero ang karne ay ibibenta sa ibang probinsya,” he said.
“Pero kung mapaparami natin ‘yan, magkaroon tayo ng trainings and seminar at ma-introduce natin ‘yan, magkaroon tayo ng slaughterhouse para sa rabbit, pwede na mag-process ng mga tocino. Pero sa ngayon, hindi makakasapat, pailan-ilan lang naman ang farmers na nag-aalaga,” he said.