Rabbit is a white meat low in cholesterol and higher in protein than any other consumable animal. The demand for farm-raised rabbit meat rises and falls, but it remains in short supply in many areas, despite a reputation for breeding capabilities.
Rabbit has always been a popular dish in many ethnic regions and is readily found in Europe and Asia. In fact, France produces and consumes more rabbits than any other country. Familiar recipes include pate de lapin (rabbit pate) and lapin a la cocotte (rabbit stew).
Farm-raised rabbits are sold as:
- Fryers (9-12 weeks of age and up to 3 ½ pounds)
- Roasters (more than 48 weeks old and 5 pounds or more)
Most U.S. domestic rabbits are of Belgian, New Zealand, and California White ancestry. A branch of the USDA oversees inspection of meat, but in some states this requirement is voluntary.
Hare and wild rabbits are gamey and tough, but remain a popular food choice. Additionally, they are known carriers of tularemia (rabbit fever). Transmission to humans is through handling raw body parts and undercooking meat. This can be avoided by using surgeon’s gloves when prepping and cooking to proper temperatures.
- Buy whole rabbits and use the bones to create stock. (If labeled “cut up,” the bones are included.)
- Most meat is vacuum-sealed and will include the back legs, forelegs, and loin (saddle).
- Refrigerate fresh meat and use within two days.
- Rabbit meat freezes well and will be good for about twelve months. Once cooked and refrozen, it should be used within six months.
- Rabbit can be prepared in the same ways as chicken.
- Packaged meat may include the forelegs. These can be cooked, used in stock, or discarded. The front legs take less time to cook; add them later when preparing hindlegs and saddle.
- Cooked meat should reach an internal temperature of 160ºF.
- Deglaze roasted rabbit with white wine. Pair with either a light Beaujolais or a stronger chardonnay.
- Turkey breast or chicken, but the taste is not really the same.