My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: How St. Thomas Rabbit Farmer Dorette Abrahams can supply rabbits to Fast-Food Restaurants

Sunday, December 27, 2015

How St. Thomas Rabbit Farmer Dorette Abrahams can supply rabbits to Fast-Food Restaurants

“Lots of Rabbit, whole heap a people have whole heap a Rabbits, and no have no way fi sell it. And there are whole heap a other people out there”

Retiree and Rabbit farmer, Dorette Abrahams from Albion heights, St Thomas explaining her problems with Rabbit Farming

Rabbit rearing is slowly catching on in Jamaica. The only problem is that there is no ready market for Rabbit meat.

This is the lament of Dorette Abrahams, a retiree from Albion heights, St Thomas who is also a Rabbit Farmer as reported in the article “No Market For Rabbit Meat In The East”, Published Saturday March 7, 2015, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Like all farmers, Dorette Abrahams and eight (8) of her fellow Rabbit farmers in Albion heights, St Thomas have also been affected by the drought, which seems set to continue on into 2016 as predicted in my blog article entitled  “How the Drought of 2015 means higher prices for Jamaican Christmas 2015 and Easter 2016”.

Currently Dorette Abrahams has some fifty (50) heads of Rabbits, including pregnant mothers that she's trying to sell. She'd been encourage to enter into Rabbit farming after a trip to Denbigh in 2013, where they told her Europeans tourists loved eating Rabbit meat.

However, she is having a great deal of difficulty selling her Rabbit meat, both locally as well as to the hotels. So what exactly are the challenges that Rabbit farmers in St. Thomas facing?

Jamaicans and Rabbits - Challenges with an animal many regard as a pet

St. Thomas Rabbit farmers continue to be affected by Rabbit market that doesn’t really exist in Jamaica as pointed out by Dorette Abrahams, quote: “Yuh start up, and then suddenly yuh find yuh have it and there is no market. There is none!”

Most Jamaicans still regard Rabbits as pet and may still do not realize that Rabbits are even grown in Jamaica. As farmer Dorette Abrahams points out, many Jamaicans find the idea of eating Rabbits offensive, quote: “People regard Rabbits as pets, and, as such, they don't eat pets," Abrahams explained. "And some tell yuh say it look like rat. And so, dem can't eat it”.

Rabbit rearing does have its challenges. It takes thirty eight (38) Rabbits to produce 100 pounds of meat.

Rabbits, who are of the family Leporidae, order Lagomorpha are delicate creatures, demanding much attention from the farmer. The Rabbit farmer has to make sure that their shelter is clean, what they eat won't give them worms and other illnesses.

They actually have to eat some of their own waste, as it contains essential gut bacteria and their mating has to be structured to breed Rabbits with the desired traits.

Also, the setup costs are a bit daunting based on the experience of St Thomas Farmer, Mr. Irvince Reynolds as detailed in my blog article entitled “Caribbean Producers Jamaica Limited to go into large-scale Rabbit Farming - Rabbit Farming is Viable as you just Ignore their Cuteness and slaughter the Bunnies”:

1.      JA$225,000 for Construction including building Material
2.      JA$$150,000 to buy Rabbits
3.      JA$700/lb for Rabbit Meat Wholesale

Despite this, the efficiency of these omnivores in converting what they eat into meat makes them more efficient and cheaper to rear than chickens. Once grown, they can fetch from JA$700 per pound up to JA$1,000 per pound.

So the price may be another reason why they are not yet on the Jamaica Table as regular Sunday Dinner fare, to quote Dorette Abrahams: “The average person can't buy Rabbit meat, the hotels themselves do not want to pay that”.

So how can Rabbit be made to go mainstream in Jamaica?

The Case of Jamaican and Pork - Pork going Mainstream in 2016 thanks to marketing

The best example that I can draw for is the struggle Jamaica has had with getting pork to go mainstream.

For years Jamaica has tried to get Jamaicans to eat more pork since 2013. However, since April 2015, signs have appeared that suggest that Jamaicans demand for Pork had increased to the point that there was now a shortage as reported in my blog article entitled “Jamaican now experiencing Pork Shortage – How Ready to Eat Pork causes Jamaicans to Love Pork as Processors want imports”. 

In fact, this Christmas 2015, a pork shortage has been evident with signs as early as since November 2015 as explained in my blog article entitled “Jamaican Pig Farmers say Pork Shortage over but Meat Processors worried – Why Possible Pork Price Profits for Pig Farmers this Christmas 2015”.

This may actually be due to a shortage of chicken as well as it may be due to the advent of easy to cook prepackaged pork.

Whatever the dominant factor, we've now reached the point where a Pork Patty is now going mainstream by 2016, thanks to Mother's patties and Pork producer Copperwood Pork as reported in my MICO Wars Blog article entitled “Why Mother’s Pork Patty a hit in 2016 as Pork is now Popular”. 

A similar thing can also happen for Rabbit meat.

Marketing Rabbit Meat - Rabbit meat for Fast Food Restaurants and Rabbit pelt for Bags

Currently the demand for Rabbit meat is mainly from the hotels.

However, due to their geographic location, the St. Thomas Rabbit farmers, who have no access to marketing from RADA, cannot get to sell their Rabbit Meat. Already research by Dorette Abrahams has turned up empty, as many of the hotels in Negril, Montego Bay and on the North Coast who could buy her Rabbit meats are already being supplied or importing!

Being in the east of Jamaica puts them at a geographical disadvantage when it comes to supplying potential clients in the west, a situation the Ministry of Agriculture could assist them with, to quote Dorette Abrahams: “I believe the role of the farmer is to farm, whether it's livestock or plants. In terms of the marketing, I believe it is vitally important that the Ministry of Agriculture needs to have a marketing arm. If that were happening things would be much better, you wouldn't have this glut, and shortage”.

Her view is that the Ministry of Agriculture is to assist them to market their Rabbit Meat and keeping track of the in a database for Rabbit farmers. This as the Ministry of Agriculture, via RADA, can act as a marketing agent for the Rabbit farmers and  introduce Rabbit meat to the Fast food restaurants, such as Tastee, Juici Beef, Mothers's and even KFC and Burger King.

Even more interesting, their pelt can be used to make belts, leather for shoes and even schoolbags as is being done by St. Thomas native Shanaye Monteith as detailed in my blog article entitled “How St. Thomas native Shanaye Monteith is Sewing School Bags to success in 2016”.

More needs to be done to introduce Rabbit Farming in schools as explained in my blog article entitled “Marcus Garvey Technical High School Rabbit Rearing Program - How the St. Ann School is teaching Teenagers and Millenials about Modern Farming Techniques” as Rabbit has the potential to replace Chicken in the future due to its meat conversion efficiency.

Introducing Rabbit meat as a Fast food option could trigger a boom market for Rabbit meat, especially if marketed as a healthier meat alternative.

Here’s the link:
Dorette Abrahams Rabbit Farm
Tel: 804-9303, 589-6988

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