ó The five women in the "Raise City Rabbits"
class at Seattle Tilth have some soul-searching to do.
plenty of city types now raise chickens for their eggs
as they join the urban-farming movement.
well, thatís kicking it up a notch, for a reason that
soon becomes apparent.
have to talk about slaughtering," says Charmaine
Slaven, who teaches the class.
that you, the owner of the rabbits, will have to do the
deed that clinically is described as "cervical
dislocation," and colloquially as "breaking
you plan to raise Angora rabbits for their wool, when
youíre talking rabbits, youíre talking meat.
is the third time in a year Slaven has taught the class
at Seattle Tilthís headquarters in the Good Shepherd
wonít replace chickens as the next urban-farming
trend, she says. It will be more of "a niche."
Slaven, in a cage, is a long-eared, fuzzy creature thatís
wiggling its nose and looking cute. His name is Tom and
he is one of Slavenís rabbits that she raises at the
White Center property where she lives with her husband,
some future date, she says, Tom will end up in a stew or
maybe roasted over a bed of veggies.
says she names all her rabbits ó Bruiser, Dollar,
Dime. They still get killed.
cared for these animals. I name them to honor them. They
were all my friends, and one day theyíll be on the
dinner table," she says.
day is no fun. I always dread it and put it off for a
couple of days," says Slaven. "One thing that
Iíve thought about is the ethical price we pay for
meat when we go to the store. Somebody, somewhere in
some factory, had to kill for you. I feel better paying
that ethical price myself."
for urban farmers, this is a task you really canít
leave to someone else ó unless youíre willing to
pack the rabbits in your car and spend the day
delivering them to a place like Farmer George Meats in
Port Orchard, Wash.
is one of nine food-processing facilities licensed by
the state to slaughter rabbits for meat.
Joe Keehn says he charges $5 a rabbit to butcher and
is 33 and used to be a veterinary tech until switching
full time to playing music with her husband in an
old-time country and blues band, The Tallboys.
had become a vegetarian at 17, but when she was 26,
Slavenís doctor told her that eating meat would help
with her iron deficiency. She decided on rabbits.
wanted meat from animals that had had "a good
quality diet," without hormones and the rest, and
what better way than to feed them herself?
there is a point in each of the classes when cervical
dislocation is discussed.
Uslontseva, 32, is one of the students.
remembers her grandparents raising rabbits for meat in
Russia and would like to try raising them at her Seattle
it will be she, not her husband, doing the deed, says
said that if I want to do it, fine. But he said that heíll
eat it," she says.
couple has a 3-year-old son.
biggest issue is what his reaction will be to his mother
going to slaughter a rabbit. Iím trying to figure out
if itís emotionally possible," says Uslontseva.
itíd be an image her son would remember.
describes the most common way of breaking a rabbitís
neck. (If you want the full details, just Google
"rabbit and broomstick.")
determined and be quick," she advises.
the class goes on, Tom, an American Chinchilla rabbit
(they are not related to chinchillas, just bred to
resemble them) placidly stares off into the distance.
is about 6 months old. He weighs 8 to 9 pounds, and will
dress out at 5 pounds.
is among the five rabbits, two dairy goats, 12 chickens
and two turkeys Slaven raises. "My urban farm is
well accepted in the neighborhood," she says.
figures she spends about $25 in feed to raise a rabbit
from when itís born to ready-to-cook four months
later. She figures she butchers about 10 rabbits every
are such cheap meat to raise that during the World War
II food-rationing years, homeowners put in "Victory
Gardens" that also included raising rabbits.
Barrentine, administrator of the office of compliance
for the stateís Department of Agriculture, explains
why it makes sense for urban farmers to raise rabbits
for meat: "They grow so fast and multiply so
quickly. Theyíre a very inexpensive meat to raise in a
small space like a backyard."
Barrentine understands the problem for modern city
rabbits are cute and furry. But thatís how you get
meat," she says.
the French or Italians, modern Americans arenít
particularly fond of eating rabbit.
Mariani, the Esquire magazine restaurant reviewer, in
2002 wrote an article: Why to Eat Bunny.
said: "I just hope your average American will
someday stop being so damn squeamish and figure out that
rabbit is a far better dinner than an
antibiotic-charged, fat-engorged chicken."
STORY CAN END HERE)
Smith, chef and owner of the acclaimed Cafe Juanita in
Kirkland, Wash., which serves Northern Italian food, has
a $36 entree on its menu for "Rabbit Braised in
Arneis with Chick Peas, Porcini and House Made Pancetta."
says the dish is "crazy popular."
says about eating rabbit, "Itís so superior to
chicken in flavor."
she says, "Americans are still leery of
went to New York City a few years ago for a chefsí
benefit dinner for the James Beard Foundation and told
them she was planning a rabbit dish.
balked," remembers Smith, but relented when she
pointed out this was a chefsí event, after all.
the Seattle Tilth class ends, the five women take turns
holding Tom and ponder if they could really do it.
say they are seriously considering raising rabbits.
of them is Brandy Reyna, who lives in Redmond, Wash.,
with her husband, Rene Reyna. Both work in the computer
says her husband, too, said that if she wanted to raise
rabbits, sheíd do the killing.
says she already raises chickens for meat, and butchers
them by slicing their throats.
can do it with chickens," she says. "But put a
little fur on it and a twitchy nose. Ö"
the other hand, says Slaven, rabbit and pork sausage is