Dr Yemi Popoola, a livestock scientist at the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Ibadan, has urged Nigerians to embrace production and consumption of rabbit because of its numerous benefits.
Popoola gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Ibadan, Oyo State.
He said other livestock species such as cow, goat and sheep take longer time to mature, cost more to feed and slower to reproduce, unlike rabbits.
Popoola said developing countries like Nigeria that have a shortage of animal protein could benefit by switching to rabbit meat as a food source.
“In many countries, this product costs roughly the same as chicken, which means that the price is not a barrier.
“Rabbit meat is more than just a delicacy, the meat is white meat, which means it is healthier and it nourishes the body with nutritional values like proteins, iron and phosphorus.
“Its low-calorie content almost equates it to a balanced meal that meets the optimal health goals.
“As compared to beef and pork, rabbit meat is relatively low on saturated fat as consuming high amounts of saturated fat subjects one to greater risks of coronary heart diseases due to its high cholesterol content,’’ he said.
According to him, rabbit meat adequately gives the body a required protein that is an important building block for essential muscle strength.
With such strong muscles, he said, the body generates more energy to build and maintain other tissue types.
“This helps to increase metabolism and it also contains selenium, a mineral the body uses to make antioxidants and stimulate sperm production.
“Each portion contains 46.8 per cent of the recommended daily value of selenium.
“This sperm stimulation is boosted by a vitamin commonly known as niacin, which converts carbohydrates to energy, thereby manufacturing a variety of sex hormones.’’
The livestock specialist said selenium also guards against hardening of the arteries and cancers such as stomach, lung, prostate and skin cancer.
Among other benefits derived from rabbit meat, he said, was brain development, as part of the reasons it is recommended for the young and old.
He also emphasised that it was also good for healthy skin, adding that with its qualities of tastiness and good nutrition, the rabbit has everything to satisfy gourmets that are concerned about their health.
He further recommended rabbit for pregnant women, nursing mothers, youths, the elderly and even sports enthusiasts.
“The meat of a rabbit is rich in quality proteins (around 21g per 100g) it is also lower in calories and sodium than the majority of other meats.
“It is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and trace elements; high in vitamins B3 and B12, phosphorus and potassium.
“It is regarded as one of the best white meats available in the market today, the meat has a high percentage of easily digestible protein.
Popoola further explained that rabbits could produce around six pounds of meat on the same feed and water as the cow would produce one pound of meat on the same feed and water.