Think a rabbit is just too scrawny to bother with? Think about these fun facts.
- Rabbits will produce six pounds of meat on the same feed and water as a cow will produce one pound of meat. - A beginner will have an oven-ready rabbit within five to 10 minutes of its demise. (And you thought chicken was easy.) - One adult female rabbit will give birth to eight kits every 45 days. That's 64 rabbits and 320 pounds of live weight per year! - Each rabbit weights about five pounds when it is butchered at 8 weeks old, and you will get roughly two to three pounds of meat per rabbit.
Klein is an independent guy from Wisconsin who currently lives in San Tan Valley. And as far as being an expert in rabbits -- he's Arizona's own. He has been hunting and working with rabbits for almost 20 years, but started getting serious between 2009 and 2011. He supplies animals for reptile owners (he ships bunny "popsicles" to reptile owners), those seeking pets, and those looking to start breeding rabbits themselves.
He also demonstrates, instructs, and teaches others on the facets of the business and how to humanely raise and process rabbits. Ideally, the folks who learn from Klein and take the business seriously will become his suppliers as he expands his venture.
His system of raising rabbits wastes nothing. Manure and urine are composted and bio-filtered and used to grow algae that feeds the tilapia Klein raises. The tilapia's water grows hydroponic plants, and he feeds the rabbit innards he doesn't eat to his turtles, who compost it. You can also gasify rabbit manure to use as fuel to run generators and Klein can also make and sell fertilizer. Essentially, rabbits are a homesteader's dream.
Right now, Klein can consume rabbits he butchers on his property but cannot sell rabbit meat to others for consumption without consent and inspection by the UDSA. But that inspection and certification process is expensive, roughly $90,000 per year. Klein says that there currently are two USDA facilities that process rabbit, one in California and one in Arkansas. UDSA certification for human consumption is very expensive, but eventually Klein plans to begin with cat and dog food, and as supply increases, he would supply packaged rabbit meat for sale and resale.