The rabbit sector consists primarily of family businesses based mainly in the provinces of West Flanders and Antwerp. The rabbits are fed only plant-based feed consisting of cereals and alfalfa which promotes the rabbit’s health and conformation.
New client requirements? The companies welcome them. The highest demands are made in the area of hygiene, control of the production process, cooling and food safety. The rabbit sector is characterised by increasing specialisation in ultramodern production areas with high-tech cutting and packaging technologies. In addition, the range of rabbit products keeps increasing.
The export of Flemish rabbit meat above all focuses on France, Germany and the Netherlands.
During slaughtering, cutting and processing, very strict quality norms are guaranteed so that an extremely hygienic product is delivered to the points of sale. There is permanent monitoring and inspections are carried out by the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC). Every rabbit and/or packaging of rabbit and cuts of rabbit must bear the registration number of the abattoir.
Thanks to the professional manner of producing and slaughtering, rabbit meat is now available all year round from the butcher, poulterer and supermarket, both fresh and frozen.
Belgian rabbit farmers opt for most animal-friendly housing
Since 1 January 2016, rabbits bred for meat may no longer be housed n cage systems in Belgium. From then on, the minimum standard is so-called animal-friendly “park housing”. A grandfathering system exists only for companies that will definitely stop before 2021 or companies that have recently invested (“in enriched cages”). This made Belgium the first country in Europe with such legislation and thus a pioneer in the area of animal welfare. Belgian or certified origin guarantees this animal welfare standard.
In park housing, the rabbits have much more space to move than in the cages that were previously used:
- The rabbits must be placed in the parks shortly after being weaned.
- They must be housed in groups of minimum 20 rabbits per group.
- The surface area of a park is at least 1.6 m² (with a maximum capacity of 1 rabbit present per 800 cm²).
- A park must be open at the top.
- The floor of a park usually consists entirely of plastic (only a maximum of 20% may still be mesh wire).
- The park must have a platform onto which the rabbits can jump.
- Things to chew on (usually hardwood) must be present in every park.
- Every park must have a tunnel that the rabbits like to crawl into or where they can shelter.