Consumers preference for rabbit meat as a source of animal protein in selected Local Government Areas in Rivers State
The study was designed to determine consumer’s preference for rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniclus) meat with respect to its production and consumption in Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme Local Government Areas (LGAs) making up the Ogoni Kingdom in Rivers State, Nigeria. A sample of 80 respondents (20 per LGA) were selected and interviewed using structured questionnaires. The data collected were analyzed using descriptive statistics such as frequency counts and percentages. The result indicated that the availability of animals reared or hunted in the LGAs apart from poultry were in the order of goat (47.5%), sheep (28.8%), rabbit (11.3%), grass-cutter (8.8%) and monkey (3.8%). Producer’s preference for rearing animals also followed a similar order. Demographic characteristics of the rabbit farmer showed that most of them were males (above 50 years) who had tertiary education and kept 1-20 rabbits both for family consumption and sales. Although more of the respondents (47.5%) were aware of rabbit as an animal, goats were more domesticated in the area but they indicated their readiness to increase the production and consumption of rabbit (77.5%). Further investigation revealed that consumers had high preference for goat and sheep meat, medium preference for rabbit and grass-cutter meat and low preference for meat from monkey. Among the factors identified that were capable of boosting rabbit production were the rich vegetation in the area, the ability of the rabbits to survive on roughages with little or no proprietary feeds, low cost of production, short gestation period and the high prolific nature of rabbits. It is therefore believed that with the good knowledge of goat and sheep production by most of the respondents in the area, which has some similarities with that of rabbit production, any effort targeted at improving the people’s preference for rabbit production and consumption in the LGAs (through radio jingles or seminars) will increase animal protein intake, create jobs, alleviate poverty and enhance rural livelihood.
Keywords: Rabbit, meat, consumer preference, animal protein