In line with the purpose to elaborate a new agro-food business model and promote Mediterranean local food products, the project aims to establish new knowledge and to explore the feasibility to obtain an innovative product that can contribute to improve human health and to face some of the challenges of the Mediterranean area. In this contest, polyunsaturated fatty acids take part in numerous physiological processes. Moreover, there is evidence that linen derived products (linen plant, linen straw, extruded linseed, linseed bran) and some species of algae, rich in α-linolenic acid, the essential precursor of n-3, may have beneficial effects on human and animal health. An unbalanced diet in terms of n-6/n-3 ratio contributes to increase the cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes and to reduce the human fertility, especially male fertility, in western Countries. On the light of this data, flax and algae supplementation in animal diet is a valid method to increase the productive and reproductive performances, the sanitary conditions of the farm and to produce nutritionally beneficial animal products such as rabbit meat. Finally, these innovative animal products, rich in n-3 and with reduced n-6/n-3 ratio, could be considered an innovative and valid functional food for the improvement of human health and fertility.

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Period of Implementation

Oct 27, 2021 - Oct 26, 2024
Total Budget

EUR 1,721,828.79



The project has the following goals: 1. To develop a new quality food product – “Ωrabbit meat” 2. To optimise the production model of rabbit meat so as to reinforce the whole value chain both for local and foreign markets; 3. To increase the competitiveness of small-scale farmers, manufacturers, local distributors and other intermediate actors.


The project has the following aims: 1. to develop specific feeds for reproducing and growing rabbits based on the supplementation of linen derived products and algae, to reach a higher n-3 fatty acids content in meat; 2. to increase the fertility of rabbits to make more efficient the rabbit farming systems; 3. to improve the sanitary status in the rabbit farms through a higher resistance to infectious diseases, by increasing the immunological response of the animals andinternational markets; 5. to develop an innovative method of packaging that allows to maintain the quality of Ω rabbit meat, to prolong its shelf-life contributing to its commercialization in the domestic market and also for export; 6. to create a new market and supply food chain (ΩRABBIT Consortium) that includes under its disciplinary and logo, farmers, breeders and research centres that produce Ωrabbit meat as a guarantee of a high quality product and under the principle “from the farm to the fork”. According to the purpose to strengthen horizontal integration, the Consortium ΩRABBIT includes the whole food chain that produces the innovative functional food: Ωrabbit meat. The research centres included in the consortium evaluate the quality of the Ωrabbit meat, the sanitary condition of the animals and their fertility. Another innovative aspect is the devise of a special packaging that can extend the shelf-life of the Ωrabbit meat. The dissemination of the results will contribute to the launch of this new healthy product in the market (vertical integration). The consortium and the Ωrabbit meat production will have

Problems and Needs Analysis

1. The diet must be able to cover the needs of the different categories of animals (breeding and fattening). The feeds administered to rabbits must be formulated in compliance with the typical needs of the species (maintenance, pregnancy, lactation, growth). Usually in the rabbit farm are used two types of feeds one for the breeders and one for the fattening rabbits. Some nutrients included in the feed, as well as, to cover the energy required, can be used to specific reason: stimulate the growth, increase the reproductive activity, enhance the milk production and improve the welfare of animals. 2. In the last decades, different kind of natural products are used to support the energy require, to stimulate the growth and the reproductive activity of the animals and also to increase the fixation of specific compounds in the meat, eggs or milk of several species, included flax, but the studies on rabbit are quite poor. Moreover, before the use of new nutrients should be evaluate the grade of digestibility and subsequently the possibility for its compounds to be incorporated in the different kind of productions (meat, eggs, milk and fur). 3. To date, exist various packaging options for the preservation of different types of meat which can control the microflora growth and can extend the shelf life of food product. The most widespread solutions are modified atmosphere (MA) and vacuum packed (VP) which inhibits the development of microorganisms, maintains intact the organoleptic quality and preserves the colouring of the meat, since low concentration of O2 slow the oxidative process. Another important aspect for the consumer, beside the health and hygiene aspects, is the presence of exudates or drip derived from the meat, which can accumulate in the package creating undesirable odors and promote deterioration processes of the meat. The absorbent pad plays an important role in modern packaging strategies in absorbing the moisture and fluids exuded. 4. The rabbit production is facing a strong decline in the last two decades, with a relevant reduction of 47% in the number of reproducing does and a decrease in production from 2012 at global level (rabbit meat is only the 0,5% of the meat produced). The perception that the rabbit meat is hard to cook, the high prices compared to other meats, the extended vision that rabbit production uses too much drugs (hormones and antibiotics), and the controversial image regarding the respect of the rabbit welfare are all linked to this decline, which therefore is relevant even in consumption. If this trend continues, the Mediterranean diet may loss an important ingredient of its long-lasting tradition, with relevant socio-economic consequence for the whole production and supply chain system. 5. The technical and economic performance of industrial rabbit production, which depends on the quality of inputs, facilities and the expertise of the breeder, does not meet the requirements needed to assure a fair profit to breeders and other actors in the production and supply chain; this increase the competition among them and hinder the cooperation. The development of rabbit breeding meets relevant difficulties to adapt to national constraints and to integrate into the country’s agriculture. 6. The Western diet is unbalanced in terms of PUFAs, with a higher abundance of n-6 compared to n-3 (15-20:1 as n-6/n-3 ratio). The World Health Organization considers that the optimal n6/n3 ratio should be less than 4. Accordingly, the modulation of dietary intake (intended as a reduction of n-6/n-3 ratio) could be considered a valid nutraceutical intervention for the improvement of human health and fertility.

Intervention Strategy(ies)

1. It will be produced some feeds for rabbit with flax derived products and algae, rich in n-3, able to improve the reproductive and productive performance (also in warming challenge conditions), the resistance to the infection (reduction of the use of antibiotics), the quality of meat and the welfare of the animals. 2. Feeds for rabbit supplemented with particular flax derived products and algae can increase the fixation rate of n-3 in the meat, contributing to create a product with a high quality, a new functional food (Ωrabbit meat) to improve the nutritional conditions in specific countries areas and to favour the consumption of beneficial health products. 3. The Ωrabbit meat is packaged using an innovative adsorbent pad “bacterial catcher”. This new pad able to reduce the bacterial growth represent a new frontier for decreasing the health risks associated with food storage and food packaging. Moreover, it can maintain the quality and increase the shelf-life of the Ωrabbit meat. Another, method of storage of the Ωrabbit meat evaluated in our project is the canned paté. These methods of packaging can contribute to favour the local and export marketing of the meat. 4. The Ωrabbit meat, as functional food, links agricultural producers to urban markets contributing to strengthen the local economy and the meat consumption, assuring both a fair profit share for producers and other key stakeholders in the supply chain, and a fair price to consumers. 5. Reinforced cooperation and integration among farmers, feed companies, breeders and research centres (multi-actor approach) in the local communities, thus increasing the capacity of the food chain to compete against extra-EU rabbit producers and, in the meanwhile, assuring quality standards for production, control, traceability and protection of Ωrabbit meat. The collaboration is between the actors of the production chain from the creation of the diet formula, to breeding, to packaging up to the sale to an informed consumer. Shared knowledge in the agri-food sector about feeds and reference benefits for animal and human health. 6. Several studies have suggested that diets rich in n-3 PUFAs could be useful in the prevention of different pathologies, such as cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, obesity, diabetes, disturbances in the lipids blood concentrations and reproductive disorders. In our study will evaluate the effects of the administration of the Ωrabbit meat, rich in n-3, for one months on the plasma cholesterol and triglycerides concentrations in a clinical trial that involve human volunteers.

Impact Pathway

Expected impacts: 1. New business models for access to market of the main actors involved in the production and supply chain of rabbit meat, suited to local clusters and SMEs, in IT, FR, TN, EG. 2. New insights in the competitiveness of local clusters of farmers, breeders and distributors, with integrated innovative planning solutions for sustainability and profitability. 3. Increase of the added value of products from local clusters.

Sustainable Development Goals Contribution