Preparing Rabbit

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Most areas of the United States are highly populated with wild game, including rabbit. Also, domestic rabbit production is increasing in many locations. Maximum use is not made of this meat because most individuals/sportsmen are not knowledgeable about meat processing. This publication presents guidelines for handling rabbits from the time the animal is sacrificed until it is consumed.

WARNING: Proper precautions should be taken when handling and processing rabbits. Rubber or other non-porous gloves should be used when handling wild rabbits. Wash the animal as soon as possible to remove Tularemia spores from the fur. Tularemia is a disease of wild rabbits which is transmissible to humans. It occurs in the United States in every month but especially in the autumn. Additional information under "Eviscerating Procedures" is provided.

Equipment/Supplies required:

Stunning Procedures:

Generally, rabbits are stunned mechanically from a blow on the top of the head (Figure 1-a). Humane slaughter electric stunning devices produce anesthesia by passing an electric current through the brain of the animal. One electrode is placed on the animal's skull and the other on the thoracic, abdominal or perineal region of the body. NOTE: Excessive electrical dosage will electrocute the animal with an immediate stoppage of the heart and respiration. Carcasses from animals killed by electrocution should not be processed for food.

The Humane Slaughter Law (Manual of Meat Inspection Procedures of the United States Department of Agriculture, Section 380.1) requires that animals stunned by mechanical, electrical, chemical, gunshot or other methods shall be unconscious before they are shackled, hoisted or cut.

Dressing Procedures:

Rabbits should be skinned and eviscerated as soon as possible after sacrificing and while the carcass is warm.
  1. Skinning Procedure:

  2. Eviscerating Procedure:

    NOTE: Sportsmen who bag wild rabbits should handle them with nonporous gloves and eviscerate them in the field soon after harvesting. Pelts should be left on to prevent drying. Complete the dressing procedure and refrigerate carcasses as soon as practical.

  3. Cutting the carcass:

    Rabbit carcasses are usually classified as "fryers or young rabbits" and as "roasters or mature rabbits." A fryer is usually a domestic rabbit weighing 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds (<12 weeks of age). Its flesh is fine grained, a bright pearly pink color and tender.
    Roasters usually weigh 4 pounds and are from animals at least 8 months old. The flesh of a roaster is more firm and coarse grained than that of a fryer. Roaster carcasses may contain a cream colored fat, have a slightly darker colored flesh, and be less tender than that of a fryer.
    The following cutting diagram and description yields portions for individual servings.

B. Remove Back and Flanks
  1. Cut through spine and along ribs.
  2. Remove flanks by separating thinner flank from thicker muscles of back.

C. Remove Front Legs through the natural seam between the foreleg and ribs

D. Split the Rib with a cleaver or large knife by cutting through and parallel to the spine.

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