“Another year or two and I will stop raising rabbits,” said 77 year-old Lawrence Weeks of Preston. “I’ve done my share and I’ve been doing it a long time.”
Weeks will always have a few rabbits, he said, but he is pretty discouraged after losing some of his bunnies recently.
“I’ve lost three does and their litters this winter due to the cold,” he said. “That’s a hard thing.”
Rabbit meat isn’t on everyone’s table, but Weeks would rather eat rabbit than chicken or beef.
As a Cuniculturist (one who breeds and raises domestic rabbits as livestock for meat or fur), he’s been raising and eating rabbits for over 70 years. He has also found a clientele that buys his dressed and cleaned bunnies.
“When I was still a kid we raised them for neighbors and sold them to a local grocery store. Back then we didn’t need to be registered, and they didn’t have to have kill floors. I sold them for .50 to .75 cents,” Weeks said. “Every time the rabbits got to be four-and-half or five pounds we would sell them.”
As he got older, he started to butcher them himself and sell them to Lott’s store, a grocer in Trenton.
Today, those same rabbits will fetch $15 to $20, dressed and refrigerated. There is still a demand for the furry animal; he has customers as far away as Bear Lake and Rigby that call for ‘the other white meat.’ He has sold meat rabbits to people in Rexburg and Burley in Idaho; and, even people from Clarkston to Hyrum buy rabbit meat.
“They call and tell me how many they want and I get the order ready for them,” he said. “I’m only one of a few around that sell and eat rabbits.”
Some people say they taste like chicken, but Weeks disagrees. He said rabbits are tastier than chicken.
“They are a cleaner animal,” he said. “I think they taste better than chicken, they’re leaner and not as greasy.”
It all started for Weeks when a Utah State University extension agent introduced Weeks to rabbit husbandry, and that opened up a new world for the seven-year-old.
The Extension agent took him to fairs around the county, enabling Weeks to start judging rabbits about the time he graduated from high school.
“I didn’t know much then, but I’ve learned a lot over the years,” he said. “I’ve been the judge for years at most of the fairs in the valley.”
One buck and two does will produce 180 pounds of meat. There are a lot people in urban areas that raise rabbits as food. They don’t need acres to roam, they are easy to care for, and all they need is water and food.
Don’t misunderstand Weeks’ motives, he also raises rabbits for show and pets. He is a member of the American Rabbit Breeders Association and produces rabbits for eating, showing, and pets.
There are some big rabbit breeders in the country, but he feels like he’s still a hobby farmer when it comes to rabbits.
He has about 160 rabbits now, down from the 350 rabbits he has previously had on hand. He said at his age, it’s time to slow down. Weeks sold off some of his inventory to other breeders trying to get into the business.
Weeks feeds his rabbits a special blend of pellets made just for him by Cache Commodities, a commercial cattle feed operation that operates out of Ogden.
“They’ve bent over backwards to help me,” he said. “They have good people working there, and they go the extra mile for their customers.”
Weeks thinks they are the best locally, “and maybe the country,” Weeks said. “They’re hardworking people.”
“They are awesome people, they are good on the quality and they’ve taken care of me. They have been especially good to work with.
“I wanted my feed formulated a particular way, and they came up with the formula I wanted,” he continued. “I’ve been using them ever since.”
He said he likes the New Zealand and the Californian breeds to raise for meat.
“The New Zealand breed is the king of the meat rabbits,” he said. “Californians are right there; they’re a little finer boned.”
Weeks also sells mini satins and mini lop for pets and to show.
Although there is a market for rabbit fur, he hasn’t tapped into that part of the business.
Weeks’ was a career electrician with USU. However, he invested a lifetime learning all he could about rabbits. And the cute little mammals have paid dividends for the Preston farmer.
“More people need to get into raising rabbits for food. There are people that do the meat processing,” he said. “But before they start selling their rabbits, they need to show rabbits so they can see what it takes to have a good rabbit.”
He said if farmers take care of them, they can be a good investment. But they’ve got to take care of them.
Weeks has raised a lot of meat over the years and he thinks rabbits have the best meat. He said there is a market for rabbits around here. He’s sold meat rabbits to people in Rexburg, Rigby, Burley, even to people from Clarkston and Hyrum buy rabbit meat.