What's Up, Doc? Whole Foods Puts Rabbit Back On Table

As Americans increase their appetite for locally sourced and sustainable protein, more and more rabbits are scampering into the stew pot. Whole Foods Markets has announced recently that it’s stocking bunnies in the butcher case.

“Our customers have long been asking us to sell rabbit,” the Austin, Tex.-based food retailer says in its release. “But first, we needed to ensure the  rabbit we sold would be consistent with Whole Foods Markets’ high animal welfare standards. It was important to us to provide rabbits that were raised in better conditions than what the industry offered.”

The news doesn’t surprise Melissa Abbott, director of culinary insights at the Hartman Group, a Bellevue, Wash.-based market research company, who says rabbits have been showing up with greater frequency on the menus of high-end restaurants. “In progressive food cities, we saw a big increase in restaurants serving rabbit on Easter Sunday. That suggests that the countercuisine culture, which drives many trends in food, is potentially preparing the masses for the fact that rabbit can be tasty and super sustainable. More progressive consumers are shifting away from the holy trinity of beef, pork and chicken and towards more sustainable and nuanced flavored proteins.” 



In certain cultures -- especially French, Italian and Spanish -- as well as much of rural America, rabbit has never gone out of fashion. But most of the country stopped eating rabbit regularly after the end of World War II. For the last several years, however, foodies, environmentalists and 4H enthusiasts have all showed a renewed interest: Chefs are serving everything from traditional ragus to miso-cured saddle to chicken-fried rabbit.

The fine-grained meat isn’t gamey, bunnies are relatively disease free, and because it can be raised for little money and without grain, proponents are promoting it as a protein source in developing countries.

“Rabbits, despite their fluffy adorableness, are incredibly sustainable, when compared to cows and pigs,” says Abbott, “and they procreate like, well, rabbits.”

Whole Foods says its standards take into account the critter’s friendly nature, and “we require group pens … with plenty of dry bedding, additional places to hide and climb, and room to forage, groom, hop, socialize and play.”

Not surprisingly, some rabbit fans are disapproving. The House Rabbit Society and have a petition going, which has already gathered some 6,000 signatures, and, a rabbit rescue group,  is also mounting a signature campaign.


3 comments about "What's Up, Doc? Whole Foods Puts Rabbit Back On Table".
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  1. jenny kim from student, August 1, 2014 at 10:36 a.m.

    Letter to the Editor

    To Joe Mandese, the Editor of MediaPost,

    I am writing to you about a recent article, "What's Up, Doc? Whole Foods Puts Rabbit Back on Table" by Sarah Mahoney published on July 3, 2014. I appreciate MediaPost's efforts in raising awareness to the growing trend of consuming rabbit meat. I agree with Whole Food's decision to make rabbit more available to consumers. Rabbit, like the article says, is a very healthy white meat alternative with many nutritional benefits.
    Though there are many protestors of this issue, I believe in having an open mind in the 21st century and with Whole Food's promise of high animal welfare standards, there is no wrong in serving rabbit meat. I believe that the acceptance of consuming rabbit is a pivotal move towards feeding thousands of homeless in America and around the world. Thank you for publishing an article on this matter and hope you continue to publish more information on the growing popularity of rabbit meat.

    Thank you,
    Jenny Kim

  2. JIm Brooke from Healthcare, August 22, 2014 at 3:25 a.m.

    Our family has a pet rabbit. With Whole Foods saying they will have group pens don't think is humane because rabbits are like dogs and us some don't like each other. My boy's pet bunny doesn't like other rabbits. There is no growing popularity of rabbit meat because more people want to eat more vegetables and fruits and less meat. Rabbit meat isn't enough one needs another protein like chicken by itself isn't a complete protein. My wife shopped at Whole Foods and she refuses to go back until they take rabbit meat off the shelves.

  3. Beth Walker from Creative Assistant, August 22, 2014 at 3:36 a.m.

    From what my neighbor told me this is a pilot program and Whole Foods my understanding is not doing well financially. This is a poor move. I am for the pet rabbit community I had one while growing up and have great memories

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