Lapan (rabbit meat) is very popular as another meat option to pork, chicken, or beef in other countries, but it is not so in the Philippines. During the pandemic, however, the province of Negros Occidental has seen the rise of rabbit meat growers, either for home consumption or for commercial production. While the market is slowly opening up to rabbit meat, the acceptance of lapan as mainstream meat still has a long way to go. Here are some milestones regarding commercially available lapan as well as the benefits why people should consider it as part of their regular diet menu.
Is It Legal To Eat Lapan (Rabbit Meat) in the Philippines?
First of all, let’s look into the legalities. Dog meat trade is illegal in the Philippines, according to Republic Act No. 8485. However, rabbit meat growing for food IS not only ALLOWED but even encouraged for food sustainability.
Benefits of Rabbit Meat
There has been some resistance to the consumption of lapan (rabbit meat), mostly because they are perceived as adorable, well-loved pets. Plus, of course, we have grown up with the concept of the Easter Bunny and it is just so hard for some people to accept eating its meat.
However, on the more technical and practical aspects, lapan trumps all other meats. Read more about the benefits of increasing rabbit meat production in the province of Negros Occidental.
Rabbits can become a sustainable food source for the province. They can be raised solely on grass and veggies if these are the only food sources available. Unlike other animal species, they can line breed for many generations without genetic issues.
Moreover, rabbits can propagate very fast. Like rodents, rabbits are well known for the speed at which they breed, “with many females having more than one litter a year”. Gestation is only about 1 month so they can produce more in a year.
“Young rabbits can reach sexual maturity at about six months of age, so, within the same year, the pair of breeding rabbits could give birth to a number of litters that might also become sexually mature, and then have their own babies, within the same year. Once again, that population number just keeps on growing!” Source: Mother Earth News
Conclusion: Rabbits are truly a sustainable, cheap way of raising meat in your backyard.
Environment: Less Carbon Footprint
Raising and consuming lapan (rabbit meat) has fewer environmental effects than other animals.
Whether for pets or for meat production, rabbits are the eco-friendly choice because they are natural vegans. They don’t consume meat or dairy, which means that rabbits have less carbon footprint, compared to cows, pigs, and poultry.
Therefore, lapan is the most sustainable and environment-friendly meat we can have on our table.
Unlike other meats, rabbit meat is the healthier choice. It has the highest percentage of digestible proteins compared to other meats. Plus, it has very low fat content.
The closest competition to lapan in terms of nutritional value is chicken. Interestingly, there’s not much difference in taste between these two types of meat. At 21.8%, rabbit meat trumps chicken at 20%. Moreover, lapan has the least amount of fat, cholesterol, and calories among other meats. In the nutritional ranking, rabbit meat is the highest among chicken, lamb, pork, or beef.
Health Benefits of Lapan (Rabbit Meat)
Here are some health benefits of rabbit meat and why you should consider including it among the meats to frequently prepare at home.
- 1. Heart-healthy. Lapan (rabbit meat) is a lean protein, so it does not contribute to high cholesterol or heart disease.
- 2. High protein content. Studies show that 100 grams of rabbit meat contain almost 30% protein, which is beneficial to a lot of body processes, including growth in children.
- 3. High in Vitamin B12. Many people skip eating meat to protect their heart health and this can mean that they are not getting enough Vitamin B12 from a food source. Lapan is rich in Vitamin B12 along with other essential vitamins and minerals.
- 4. Low calorie. Among the many meats available, rabbit meat has the lowest caloric content, which is only about 197 calories per 100 grams. You feel full and get enough protein at less calories.
- 5. High in selenium content. Selenium is an essential mineral. Adults usually need about 55 micrograms of selenium per day, as it boosts immunity and helps in having a healthy thyroid. Lapan rabbit meat contains about 38.5 micrograms of selenium in a 100-gram serving.
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Making Lapan Rabbit Meat Popular in Bacolod and Negros Occidental
In the past, there had been several backyard growers of rabbits for their meat. But they were not organized. It was more of an individual effort or just merely a hobby.
Then Came UNI-RaMP
The United Negros Island Rabbit Meat Producers (UNI-RaMP) is now the umbrella organization of rabbit breeders not just in the province of Negros Occidental, but the entire island. “I pushed for the formation of an association. We called it UNI-RaMP in order to unite all rabbit backyard breeders and have a common goal of raising rabbits for meat,” said President Nonoy Doren.
A resident of Talisay City, Negros Occidental who had long been breeding rabbits, Mr. Doren said that before UNI-RaMP, “there was no direction or common goal how to spread awareness about the benefits of Lapan to the consumers.”
Answering that call, UNI-RaMP had its first assembly meeting on November 14, 2020, at the height of the pandemic. Rabbit breeders from around the province of Negros Occidental convened and elected a set of officers.
How the Pandemic Affected Their Industry
The road to achieving their goals as an organization proved to be tough, as travel restrictions and health concerns in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic left everyone concerned about their safety.
“We have visited different LGUs promoting Lapan to the community. I did this without any support from the association and most road trip expenses came from my pocket. Did everything pro bono for the sake of the association’s goal! Thankfully, for the past two years, our efforts were not wasted. We are now reaping from the results. Many health-conscious individuals that believed Lapan has a lot of health benefits have made the shift. Awareness works,” Mr. Doren enthuses.
Lapan (Rabbit Meat) Breeders in Negros Occidental
At the start, UNI-RaMP, inducted 28 backyard breeders from around the province of Negros Occidental. As of this writing, that number has ballooned to 65 active members who eagerly support the vision and mission of UNI-RaMP.
Membership Requirements for UNI-RaMP
To become a member of UNI-RaMP, a breeder should have breeding materials of at least five (5) does and one (1) buck that can produce quality and healthy rabbits that can be harvested for meat. The membership fee is ₱1,000.00, which is used to support the association’s needs and operating expenses.
If one is interested to become a member but doesn’t have breeding materials yet, UNI-RaMP can supply the initial need, as members are also willing to sell in order to help novice breeders start their own production.
As of this time, UNI-RaMP is still finalizing the full benefits of being an association member, as they continually process their accreditation with the different host cities and the province of Negros Occidental.
However, they do enjoy technical support from the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist under the leadership of Dr. Edmundo Raul Causing, as well as help from the Office of the Provincial Veterinarian. Government support is in coordination with UNI-RaMP.
“The Negros Occidental-OPA supports rabbit meat growing as an alternative and healthy protein source and as a component of Agri tourism,” Dr. Causing said.
Where to Get Lapan (Rabbit Meat)?
The first foray of lapan as commercially available meat was during an exhibit for the local producers of the province, organized by the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental. It was held at the Robinsons Place Bacolod and the exhibit by UNI-RaMP was well-accepted.
The event was graced by Hon. Eugenio “Bong” Lacson, Governor of Negros Occidental, who was quoted as saying, “Manamit gid ang Lechon Rabbit! (Lechon rabbit is delicious!” He also encouraged everyone present to support the rabbit industry.
It was sort of like testing the waters, as the group offered food tasting as well as lectures on rabbit growing. They were actually sold out of their frozen rabbit meat. But that was it and the public’s interest waned because the supply was not steady.
It was only last month when several breeders cooperated and opened the first-ever rabbit meat restaurant in Bacolod City–Hops Grill House.
Hops Grill House
A new Bacolod restaurant, Hops Grill House is the only restaurant of its kind–they only serve dishes made of lapan. They serve grilled rabbit slices and even cater for those who want to order whole grilled rabbit.
At Hops Grill House, they serve Filipino dishes with lapan as its main protein. They have caldereta, adobo, sotanghon guisado, fried lumpia, valenciana, sisig, and the like–all made from different parts. Even the lechon sauce has been made predominantly from the rabbit’s liver. There’s really not much wastage for every live animal.
Hops Grill House is open from Monday to Saturday, from 11am to 8pm. They are located at The Billboard, 23rd-Lacson Streets, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.
What is the Best Rabbit Meat Breed?
We are accustomed to seeing rabbits that are plump and hairy, which are usually pictured on social media and in books. However, there are different breeds of rabbits and the ones grown for meat are specific because growers also want to harvest more meat from each animal.
In Negros Occidental, local growers prefer New Zealand and Californian breeds.
The Future is Bright for Lapan (Rabbit Meat) Growers
From merely individual backyard breeders, to a province-wide movement, and now a restaurant, the lapan (rabbit meat) industry in Negros Occidental is growing at a slow but steady pace. During the pandemic, the produce from rabbit meat growing fed families in the countryside and helped them to earn extra income as we faced the uncertainty of the pandemic.
At present, the restaurant is always full and their products are sold out every day. There is now a growing demand for rabbit meat among the healthy set as well as the environmentally-conscious people.
With more awareness and education, the industry will continue to grow and hopefully, with that, prices per kilo will also go down with more supply. It will be good for both growers, consumers, and also the environment.
Agribusiness’ guide on rabbit farming.