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How to Process a Rabbit

As with anything else in farming, there are many different ways to slaughter and dress a rabbit. Learn how with these simple steps.

| January 2020

As with anything else in farming, there are many different ways to slaughter and dress a rabbit.

Grading Your Meat

Grading meat in the United States predominantly exists for beef, pork, and poultry sold by distributors and not so much for small, direct-to-consumer farms. USDA grading guidelines for rabbit do exist, however, and even though it’s very unlikely it will ever make sense for you to have your meat graded, knowing the standards is useful. Otherwise, how will you know how your rabbits measure up?

Graded rabbit carcasses are given either an A, B, or C designation. Just as with beef, pork, and chicken, an A indicates the highest quality. In order to get stamped with one, a rabbit has to be very clean with no signs of blood clotting caused by incomplete draining. Soaking the carcasses in salt water during cool-down helps achieve this. It should also be blemish- and bruise-free. Since dead and drained rabbits can’t bruise (because there’s no blood), in order to prevent bruising, it’s imperative you treat your live rabbits gently and carefully before slaughter. Grade A rabbits shouldn’t have any broken bones, with the exception of where the legs were clipped to remove the feet, and should be clean of any fur, bone shards, and dirt.

When grading your rabbits, look for a moderate amount of fat around the kidneys as well as around the crotch and inner walls of the body cavity. You want your rabbits to have a broad back, wide hips, and deep-fleshed shoulders. Rabbits that are thin, lean, rangy, bloody, bruised, or bony fall into B or C, depending on the degree.


If you have a vacuum sealer, you can use that to package whole rabbits or parts. If you don’t, I recommend using poultry shrink bags, which expel all the air in the bag and shrink to the meat inside when they are dipped in hot water. Poultry shrink bags are very easy to use and are available from several sources online.

While there are no crystal-clear regulations about how long you can keep rabbit fresh after slaughtering, my slaughterhouse recommends a maximum of 10 days before cooking or 7 days before freezing. In order to keep fresh, they need to be properly packaged and consistently kept at 40°F (4°C) or below. Rabbits can be held in a crystallized state in temperatures between 25 and 30°F (–4 and –1°C) for even longer without ever actually freezing. Properly packed frozen rabbit can keep indefinitely, though quality may begin to degrade after a year.

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