I know that lots of people get upset that I eat my rabbits.
I really don’t want to offend anyone or make people sad.
We eat meat. I like meat. I don’t want my meat to be raised in sad dirty, cramped places. I don’t want it to be locked in concrete barns, or raised in some other unfortunate situation. I want to eat healthy meat that was raised humanely.
So, I raise animals, care for them, love them, enjoy them & then I eat them. I know there are many others, like me, who want to raise happy food, play with it, love it, and eat it.
Most of us consume animals in one form or another, even if we aren’t eating them (belts, shoes, furniture, makeup, dryer sheets and many other items have animal products in them). It would be tough to avoid completely. I am happy to be pro-animal, pro-meat, and pro-cruelty-free-food.
Rabbit meat is some of the healthiest food you can eat. Not only is it good for you, it can be practically free to raise. Rabbits eat grass, weeds and veggies. This means I can feed my rabbits scraps from my garden, weeds and hay (which we have literally TONS of) and turn it into meat. That’s some cheap food.
This post is about harvesting rabbit meat.
By “harvesting” I mean:
If you don’t want to see bunnies die and get their skin pulled off, you should stop reading….. now. Seriously.
I have some cute food. My kids and I play without our cute food regularly. This doesn’t not make it taste any better or worse, but we get complete enjoyment from raising rabbits. To read all about raising them:
- Why We Got Rabbits
- 5 Things about Raising Rabbits
- Bunny Mating
- Building the Rabbitry
- Keeping Outdoor Rabbits Safe
- Getting the Farm Ready for Winter
Today, we are going to end the Rabbitry Circle of Life. If you don’t want to be dealing with a couple of dozen rabbits during the: frozen water, cold winds, ice, snow, generally miserable season – this is the time to harvest. We are keeping our buck (Hi, Hulk!) and our doe (Hi, Nash!) and maybe one more doe (Hi, Nelson!) over the winter, but everyone else is a goner.
The fewer animals I have to deal with over winter, the happier I am. You will hear me praise the magical mornings in my milk barn with my sweet Jersey cows. This is a different experience entirely. I don’t find my milk-cow related chores tiresome or miserable. Not during winter or any other time, really. I really enjoy my milk cows. Every second of it. Plus, the milk barn is heated. Grin.
Taking care of pigs, rabbits and even taking the dog out to poop are duties I hate in winter. These simple tasks have the ability to bring forth unreasonable amounts of complaining and whining from me on a daily basis. Therefore, the pigs went to freezer camp early in November & the rabbits are joining them. Now I just have a dog to deal with.
The nice part about the rabbit harvest, in addition to making winter chores more bearable, is food.
Rabbit meat is tasty.
# 1 Get Set up
Before we begin the project, we get the stations all set up and ready to go. It is no fun to be running back to the house for knives, ice, buckets and paper towels when you have rabbit blood and fur stuck to you.
We use a waist high table for processing our rabbits (and chickens and ducks). We feel this is much more comfortable than hanging them from trees. Having a workspace will save your back, neck and shoulders. Welcome!
Great things to have handy:
- Rabbits waiting in cages (close by)
- Buckets (or garbage cans) for catching guts, fur, skin, heads & other parts you may not want to eat
- Buckets, large bowls, or coolers with ice to hold fresh meat
- Sharp knives
- Paper towels
- We have a sink in the barn where I can rinse the finished meat or wash up. This is handy but not necessary.
- Zipper top storage bags.
If you have a sink handy where you are processing you can get the rabbit harvest completed from A to Z right there. This is what we do. It’s fabulous. If you don’t have an outdoor sink available, kitchens work fine too. 🙂
Welcome to death row. (Poor, cute food)
I suppose I should add a little disclaimer that I am not an expert. We get the deed done & the meat is great, however, I’m pretty sure that if you asked 10 people how to harvest a rabbit you’d probably get 10 answers….. and they’d all be right. I will add that we have “processed” several animals (chickens, ducks, dove, deer, squirrel, rabbits, pig and we’ve participated in some others as well)…… and rabbits are probably the easiest we have ever done. Not only is it simple to do, it is also the least messy of the animals we’ve processed.
With that being said, here’s how we do it!
#2 “Kill the Wabbit”
First things first…. Before anything else can be done we need the rabbits to be dead. To kill our rabbits we shoot them in the head. If you were going to kill me and my choices were: slit my throat, break my neck or shoot me in the head, I’m gonna pick the bullet in the head every time.
So, this is the route we chose. If you chose another method that works for your homestead – go for it.
DH is taking care of the dirty business today. I have shot many animals in my life, but a bunny is….. well…. they’re cute. And sweet. And I just didn’t want to pull the trigger. I think this is what husbands are for.
Once the deed is done the skinning can begin.
We then cut the fur around both back feet so we can get our hands under the skin & begin pulling. Once the first cuts have been made it is quite astonishing how easily the rabbit skin comes off. Just pull it off like you are taking off it’s PJs.
Keep pulling until your rabbit is naked. Once the fur is pulled down to the neck, this is when we remove the head. Many folks remove the head before they start skinning, that is a fine way to go. We feel it’s a cleaner project if the head remains intact until the skin is pulled down. You won’t end up with fur on your meat and it is also less bloody.
Now it’s time to get the guts out. This is fairly simple and is the least messy gutting I have ever participated in. Just don’t cut too deep. You don’t want to bust open anything in there. The goal is to simply cut the abdomen open & let the guts slide out intact. When things accidentally get hacked open it’s not pretty.
- Lay the rabbit on it’s back
- Use a sharp knife to cut a shallow slit in the abdomen from the groin area up toward the breast. You will see all the insides instantly.
- All you have to do is raise your rabbit up over something (like a garbage can or bag) and all the insides will slid out. It’s soooooooo easy.
#5 Chopping (or not)
Now we have a rabbit. You have options at this point. You can roast them whole. You can make stock. You can cut them into pieces so they look just like chicken. Whatever blows your skirt up. I am going to cut mine into pieces for frying. Yum.
I’m using a super strong kitchen knife for the job. It can handle meat, bone, cartilage or anything else. Cut your rabbit to order.
I keep a bowl of ice on the table to toss the rabbit parts into as I cut them up. This keeps all the meat nice and cold until I take it into the barn to be washed in the sink & bagged.
#6 Wash, Bag & Freeze
Last, rinse all your meat well, transfer into zipper top freezer bags (or you can wrap in butcher paper) and freeze. You’ll have some of the best, organic, healthy meat you can eat in your freezer.
Rabbit for dinner!
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