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Perceptions of consumers, retailers and their attitude towards rabbit meat in the KZN province, South Africa.

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The broad objective of the current study was to determine the response and attitudes of consumers and retailers towards rabbit meat. Growth performance and the quality of rabbit meat as influenced by breed were also determined. A survey was conducted among 226 respondents (n=201 consumers and n=25 retailers) from two different municipalities under the uMgungundlovu district (Msunduzi and Richmond local municipalities), in the KwaZulu Natal province to investigate their perceptions and attitudes towards rabbit meat. Both rural and urban areas under the selected municipalities were visited. The results of the study showed that there was a positive association (p<0.001) between gender, consumption of rabbit meat, and willingness to purchase rabbit meat from butcheries and supermarkets. Out of the sampled population, sixty one percent (61%) of the consumers who had indicated to have never consumed rabbit meat before reported that rabbit meat is rare to find. Hence rabbit meat scarcity and lack of exposure were stated as the major reasons for the low consumption patterns and highlighted as the main reason why they have never consumed it. Only 8.6% of the respondents reported that it is against their religion to consume rabbit meat and a small portion (3.4%) of the population highlighted that they feel disgusted just by even the imagination of consuming rabbit meat. The results also revealed that out of the total interviewee’s, only two percent (2%) of the respondents indicated that they perceive rabbits as pets and not as the type of protein source that they would be prepared to consume. It was further observed that there was a strong significant association (p <0.05) between race and willingness to consume rabbit meat should it be made available in the retail stores. Furthermore, a large percentage (63.2%) of the respondents showed their willingness to purchase rabbit meat if it were to be made available in the local markets, whilst the remaining (33.8%) highlighted their lack of interest or willingness to purchase rabbit meat. There was a significant association (p<0.05) that was observed between occupation of the respondents and their willingness to purchase and consume rabbit meat. Out of the total number of retailers that were interviewed, twenty eight percent (28%) perceive that there could be a market for rabbit meat within the meat industry, whilst the remaining 72% reported that they do not see an opportunity/ market for rabbit meat in the South African meat industry. An on-station experiment was conducted to assess growth performance and rabbit meat quality whereby forty-eight rabbits from six different breeds (New Zealand white, New Zealand red, Californian, Chinchilla giganta, Cinnamon and American sables) were used. The rabbits were grown under the same conditions, fed a similar commercial pelleted diet from the weaning phase (35 days) and slaughtered when a commercial slaughter weigh of 2.5kg was reached. Feed and water were offered at ad libitum, with the following traits measured weekly: feed intake, body weight, average daily gain and feed conversion ratio. Following a feed withdrawal period of 12 hours, the rabbits were slaughtered and eviscerated. Carcass characteristics, physicochemical properties and growth performance were evaluated. The findings showed that there were significant differences between carcass characteristics of various breeds. Significant differences among dressing percentage were observed (p>0.01). No significant differences were observed for the pH values of the Longissimus dorsi between the different breeds at pH45 and pH24. Lowest pH values were observed after 24 hours post slaughter. Water holding capacity as a measure of the freshness of the meat is a vital meat quality attribute, significant differences (p<0.01) were observed between breeds for this characteristic. Meat from chinchilla giganta had the highest water holding capacity of 66% whilst New Zealand Red and Cinnamon had low water holding capacity of (59.7%) and (59.1%) respectively. The results indicated that breed had no significant effect on various carcass characteristics except for dressing yield of carcass. In conclusion, regardless of the production purposes of the breed (meat or fur) carcass and meat quality traits were similar.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.