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Omega Rabbit - Concept of the project

In our study, we will analyse if dietary supplementation with flax and algae can increase the quantity of n-3 fatty acid in the meat, producing a new functional food, the Ωrabbit meat. Selected flax with or without algae PP will be used focusing the analysis on their effects in the quality of meat, its dietetic sensorial, and technological characteristics. Indeed, flax presents a high content in ALA which is susceptible to oxidation and could affect the shelf life, nutritional value, colour, sensory parameters and, therefore, consumer acceptance if used inappropriate conditions (too high level, poor quality, low level of antioxidants).

Therefore, it could be very important to consider the duration of the treatment and the percentage of supplementation with linseed to overcome this inconvenience. Enhancing the PUFAs concentrations in the meat also confer specific sensorial qualities. Rabbit meat offers the possibility to bring these n-3 fatty acids in significant quantities, and to cover a large part of the human daily needs, provided that the rabbit has received a diet rich in n-3. With regard to ALA, the consumption of 100 g of rabbit meat (rabbit fed with a standard food) provides 14% of the recommended dietary intakes for humans. This consideration is very important taking into account the WHO guidelines. From this point of view, offering an n-3 enriched meat product on the market could contribute to improve health, fertility and prevent chronic diseases.

The acceptability of rabbit meat both for farmers/producers/SMEs and consumers is due not only to its nutritional and dietetic properties but also to food safety aspects and different technological factors as storage conditions and packaging methods. Another important aspect highlighted in literature regarding rabbit meat quality is the relation between (i) diet or the integration of the feed with supplement, (ii) control of microbial growth and (iii) the development of lipid oxidation (rancidity) under storage. Many packaging options exist to date for the preservation of meat in general, which can control the microflora growth and can extend the shelf life of food product. The most widespread solutions are modified atmosphere (MA) which limits microbial development and vacuum packed (VP) which inhibits the development of aerobic spoilage microorganisms, maintains intact the organoleptic quality and preserves the colouring of the meat, since low concentration of O2 slow the oxidative process. Other important aspect in relation the packaging, which has a major impact on the consumer as well as compromising health and hygiene aspects is the presence of exudates or drip derived from the meat, which can accumulate in the packaging. For this reason, the absorbent pads (AP) plays an important role in modern packaging strategies in absorbing the moisture and fluids exuded, also because the presence of exudation liquids collected in the AP can create undesirable odours and promote deterioration processes precluding the food safety of the meat. Therefore, the study of new innovative adsorbent pads able to reduce the bacterial growth represents a new frontier for decreasing the health risks associated with food storage and food packaging. Finally, given the limited market share of rabbit meat compared to common meat species, there are not many studies that focus on the effect that have different packaging techniques and absorbent meat pads on rabbit meat quality. Consequently, this study will be able to validate the effectiveness of the innovative absorbent pad “bacterial catcher” in order to define a correct shelf life evaluation model (under different storage conditions) in rabbit meat, with the consequent possibility to increase the local market and the exportation of Ωrabbit meat products (economic sector no very developed in several countries). Another alternative way to promote the consumption of the Ωrabbit meat, explored in the project is as canned conserved product as “paté”. At the moment, in southern Mediterranean area, the production of rabbit meat does not meet the needs of the countries and a rabbit breed animated by the idea to produce a functional food “Ωrabbit meat” with a high n-3 contents and a favourable n-6/n-3 ratio to revive a sector that is going through a profound economic crisis does not exist.

Therefore, the creation of ΩRABBIT Consortium that specifically produces Ωrabbit meat can contribute to enhance the breed of the rabbit in specific areas of the countries partner. As a consequence, the consumption of this meat could be increased with beneficial effects for the human health, the job opportunity, the monthly gain with economic effects not only for all the actors of the food chain but also for other local food producers. In line with the topic, the project intends to enhance the production of Ωrabbit meat, rich in n-3, using a multi-actor approach from the farmer to the final consumers and also by the collaboration between actors of the same or other connected chains. Moreover, the project aimed to increase the fertility of rabbit buck and to reduce the use of the antibiotics in the rabbit breeding following the EU recommendations to counteract the onset of antibiotic resistance.