Don’t feel like reading? Jump to the butchering tutorial. When it comes time to butcher rabbits, this is the Saddest day on our farm. Our very own rabbits have been raised and nurtured from day one in their cozy little nest boxes. We have talked to them, loved them and fed them their favorite treats. Today is the day we have to face the fact that we have raised them for our organically grown food. This is a bittersweet moment that we do not take lightly, I know many can relate. 1 Timothy 4:4-5 says “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it is received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and Prayer”. It is also a very exciting day as well because we will have our own meat, rabbit recipes like bone broth, and deliciously nutritious organs. Follow along as we share with you how we do this.
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When To Butcher Rabbits?
Baby rabbits are ready to be harvested between 8-12 weeks of age. They can be harvested later on but this will change the texture of the meat. There are actually different criteria in rabbit meat production. The age and weight of a rabbit will have a different name and classification. The information below regarding fryers, roasters, and stewers comes from Michigan State University. Click here to read the full details.
- ‘A fryer is less than 10 weeks old. It weighs 3.5 to 5.5 pounds live. A fryer’s carcass should be more than half its live weight. This includes the liver, heart and kidneys. The flesh of a fryer is tender with a fine texture and a bright pearly white color. Fryers are the more common type of domestic meat rabbit.’
- ‘Roasters are 10 weeks to 6 months old. They are commonly 5.5 to 9 pounds live. A roaster’s carcass should weigh more than half of the rabbit’s live weight. The flesh of a roaster is firmer than a fryer’s. It is also slightly darker with a coarser texture.’
- ‘Stewers are rabbits over 6 months old. They must have attained a weight of 8 pounds or more live. Their carcass is generally firmer, contains more fat and is course.’
How To Properly Age Rabbit Meat
Rabbit meat does not need to age long like deer or cattle. Simply set your rabbit in a big roasting pot or big kitchen container, cover and let it sit for 3-7 days. This will allow all of the muscles to relax. After an animal dies, the muscles and joints stiffen up an hour or so after death. This is called rigor mortis and if eaten at this stage will be too hard to chew. This can last for one hour or up to 4 days. so keep an eye on the meat in the fridge and give it time. One way to avoid the rigor is to eat it right away. This can be quite difficult if you are butchering a lot of rabbits.
The Top 2 Best Ways To Humanely Dispatch A Rabbit
As I stated before we love our rabbits and we want this to be a quick and painless process. So we have done some serious searching and found our top 2 best ways to humanely dispatch that is quick and easy.
- The best method to dispatch is using the Hopper Popper. We calmly grab the rabbit by the ears and back legs. We comfort them till the last minute by holding them close and firm against our body. Quickly we place the head in and pull from the back legs dislodging the head. Instant. This is hands-on and very hard to do. Because this is hands-on, it is not for everyone. So that leads me to number two.
- This is the second best humane method to dispatch rabbits in my opinion. Shooting the rabbit is what a lot of people do because it is also a quick method. I would never want the rabbit to squirm and the bullet not hit the target properly. This is the reason I don’t use this, but i’m sure there are great ways to contain and comfort the rabbit while dispatching.
What Parts Of A Rabbit Are Good To Eat?
Internal organs such as the heart, kidney and liver are great options for different vitamins and minerals not found in our daily diet. The rabbit heart can be slightly chewy but has a delicious steak flavor. The rabbit liver can be pan fried in raw milk butter, salt and seasoned to taste. They come out crispy and delicious. We like to use everything we can from our harvest so we can rest easy knowing that our rabbits served their full purpose.
Our Favorite Way To Use the Rabbit Meat!
Our favorite way to use the rabbit meat is to make rabbit ground meat with grass-fed beef fat! We love a good rabbit burger. From their nesting boxes, to their hide boxes, to the butcher station, to the table….. So awesome! Grinding up the meat is the best way to tenderize and adding the fat will give flavor and juiciness. If you are interested in grinding up your own meat, there are handheld options for grinding under $75 or you can go to MEAT! This company has all the affordable options without sacrificing the quality of products.
Rabbit Dog Treats!
Don’t forget to save the front paws and back feet of the rabbit for the dogs. They love them! Also saving the lungs and the ears would put to use the rest of the rabbit. The last thing you will come across when trimming your meat for packaging is the rabbit’s neck. You can give that to your dogs and they will thank you! So we have used the whole rabbit except the actual intestines and stomach. I’m sure they can be used in other ways, but I haven’t gotten that far yet. Let me know in the comments if you know what they can be used for.
What Do I Need While I Butcher Rabbits?
This is dirty work so it is important to have a clean and tidy work station. There are various ways to do this but this is what has worked for us. Make sure you have everything you need before beginning, you want this to be a smooth and clean process. You will want to have your Hopper Popper set up securely for dispatching. A bucket of water should be next to this for wetting the rabbit’s fur. This will weigh down the hair to keep it from getting everywhere. A rabbit hanger should be set up with your water trough under to collect the inner parts of the rabbits. It’s a good idea to have a water hose in close reach while cleaning meat to rinse your knife and meat if needed. A table should be close by with a bowl for the organs and a kitchen container or roasting pot for the meat. Now you are ready for the processing! If this is your first time butchering rabbits, don’t be nervous, you can do it.
Lets Get Started! The Entire Process
This is the hardest part of raising any animal, but it is a necessary part of farming. This is our easiest way to butcher and clean our rabbits. If this is your first time or you just need to refresh your memory, this instructional will give you a detailed description of an efficient cleaning station and show you everything you need to have on hand. Make sure you have everything you need before beginning, you want this to be a smooth and clean process. Also don’t forget to have a good time and thank the Lord for providing food.
- Water trough
- Kitchen storage container or large roasting pan
- Bucket of Water
The Butcher Station Set Up
- The first step is to set up your butcher station. A hanger should be set up with your water trough under to collect the inner parts of the rabbits. Hook your water hose in close reach for cleaning meat. A table should be close by with a bowl for the organs and a kitchen container for the meat.
- The next step is to securely mount your hopper popper.
- Place a bucket of fresh water next to your hopper popper.
The Humane Dispatch And Prep Work
- Dispatch rabbit using the hopper popper. This is the most effective and humane dispatching method in my opinion. It is also hands on and can be very sad.
- Once the rabbit has departed, dislodge the rabbit’s neck. This will make it easier to cut the head off and bleed the animal.
- Wet the rabbits fur using a bucket of cold water. This will weigh down the hair and stop it from getting everywhere.
- Hang on a hanger by the rabbit’s hind legs.
- Cut off the rabbit’s head to release the blood.
- Cut off the front paws.
The Skinning Process
- Carefully cut the skin of the rabbit around both ankles.
- Once you cut completely around the ankles, work the fur down gently with your fingers. If the skin is tough, work it with your knife.
- Cut through fur. Be careful not to puncture the stomach.
- Pull Down and the pelt should come right off the front legs like a shirt.
- Roll and save the pelt in a plastic bag and freeze until tanning.
The Gutting Process
- Cut gently in the groin to get access to the inside.
- Place fingers in the rabbit and pull away from the body to ensure you do not puncture the inners. Use the tip of the knife to cut in between the fingers.
- Locate the bladder.
- Pinch above the bladder and cut as high up as you can.
- Pull down tail and cut off
- Cut in the center of the pelvic bone
- Pop the legs to release the pelvic bone
- Cut right along the colon. Be very careful
- Pull out the colon.
- Hang the colon outside the rabbit to prevent rabbit manure from getting inside.
- Locate the kidneys
- Pull them out and place in a bowl for later
- Reach as far in and pull out all the inner parts. DO NOT DROP! The liver will be with it.
- Separate the rabbit liver
- Locate the gall bladder
- Pull the gallbladder off and discard. It is pretty tough so don’t worry about busting it
- Save the liver in the bowl with the kidneys
- Pull away the diaphragm inside the rib cage revealing the heart and lungs
- Grab the heart and lung and rinse to get all the blood out of the heart.
- Place in bowl with the liver and kidney
- Remove the bloody neck. This will keep the blood from getting into the fascia during the resting stage.
- Rinse the carcass with cold water.
- Cut the feet off in the joint.
- Drain meat as best as you can and place in a kitchen storage container or large roasting pan. (I recently found a rack that fits on the storage container. This allows the meat to drain and dry instead of sitting in the bloody liquids.)
- Enjoy your rabbit fresh or let it rest in the fridge for 3-7 days!
- vacuum seal and freeze the meat.
One rabbit will yield between 2-3 pounds of meat!
Don’t forget to remove the glands in the back of the legs and around the colon area. This will help the meat taste cleaner. It’s not necessary but sure does make a difference.
Why We Raise Rabbits
We personally chose a small herd of rabbits because of how quick we can get our own food without having to go to the grocery stores. Rabbits are also great for homesteaders who don’t have much room but still want their own meat. While we do have 30 acres, we still liked how they didn’t take up much space on our land. They also have a so much meat in relation to the amount of food they require. It is easy to afford high quality food for them because they don’t require much!
Rabbits typically have babies year around but in south Louisiana we choose not to breed during summer time since it’s too hot here. We choose to breed our rabbits in the fall, winter, and spring. Once we start in the fall we will breed them every 1-2 months after they have their babies. The babies are then ready to be butchered by 8-12 weeks old. We harvest the meat and keep the organs as well as the bones. We use every part that we can, so nothing goes to waste. This makes for a delicious and gut healing, rabbit bone broth.
Do you do things differently? Share in the comments below so everyone can hear your ideas!