The FSSAI has issued a notice asking for suggestions, views, and comments from stakeholders by 21 March 2016 for the inclusion of Leporidae under species of animal that provide meat for human consumption. The term “Leporids” is proposed to be included in the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011 in sub-regulation dealing with Meat and Meat Products.
Previously the definition of ‘animal’ included only
- Ovines (sheep family)
- (Caprines (goat family)
- Suillines (pig family)
- Bovines (cattle family including buffalo, bison)
- and ‘animal’ also included poultry and fish
In the proposed draft the FSSAI would like to include Leporids to this list.
Leporidae is a Latin word that means those that resemble Lepus or hare. There are at least eight different genera in the family classified as a rabbit. Therefore leporids include meat from the rabbit family like hares and rabbits. Meat from the Leporidae species includes meat from wild hares as well as from farmed animals. One of the most common types of rabbit to be bred for meat is the New Zealand white rabbit.
In the Middle Ages in Europe, monks domesticated leporids and since then rabbits became a source of protein which was affordable for the general public. Their fur also provided material for warm clothing. Rabbit meat is popular in many countries in Europe, countries in North and South America, some parts of the Middle East and China. The annual meat production is estimated to be at least 200 million tonnes. The countries where rabbit meat consumption is highest are Malta, Italy, Cyprus, France, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal. In Asia- Pacific rabbit meat is not as popular as yet as compared to these countries. The largest rabbit meat producing countries are China, Russia, Italy, France and Spain.
Rabbit meat is sold by butchers and in the supermarket’s rabbit meat is sold as a frozen product. Rabbit products are labeled in three ways such as
- Fryer (this is the meat of a young rabbit of about 2kg)
- Roaster (this is the meat of a rabbit about 8 months old and weighing about 2.3kg))
- Giblets which is the liver and heart of the rabbit
Compared with pork and beef rabbit meat is richer in high-quality proteins and certain vitamins and minerals and has less fat. Fat in rabbit meat contains higher proportions of polyunsaturated linolenic and linoleic fatty acids. Rabbit meat can be used to prepare similar dishes to chicken. It is commonly used in Moroccan cuisine and in China it is used in Sichuan cuisine. Other popular dishes are a stewed rabbit, spicy diced rabbit, barbeque style rabbit, and even spicy rabbit heads.