Can I eat a rabbit from my backyard?

Quick Answer

Yes, you can eat a rabbit you raise in your backyard, as long as you follow proper food safety guidelines. Rabbits are a lean, healthy meat source that can be prepared in many ways. However, backyard rabbits may have a higher risk of disease, so proper handling and cooking is essential. Consult your local agriculture department for rules on raising and processing rabbits.

Is it legal to eat a rabbit from my backyard?

In most areas of the United States, it is legal to raise rabbits for personal consumption. However, there are often regulations regarding the slaughter and sale of the meat. It’s best to check your state and local laws to ensure you are following proper protocol. Some key things to look for include:

  • Zoning laws related to raising livestock in residential areas
  • Requirements for humane slaughter if you plan to butcher the rabbits yourself
  • Food handling, prep, and storage regulations if you plan to eat or sell the meat
  • Hunting and trapping regulations if you plan to harvest wild rabbits

As long as you are raising domestic rabbits on your own property and following slaughter, food prep, and storage guidelines, eating them is perfectly legal in most regions. Contact your county extension office or department of agriculture to check any specific rules in your area.

Are backyard rabbits safe to eat?

Backyard rabbits are safe to eat if handled and prepared properly. Domesticated rabbits bred for consumption are subject to the same health standards and regulations as other livestock intended for human food. However, there are some additional risks with rabbits raised in backyard or small farm settings compared to commercial facilities:

  • Higher parasite risk from exposure to wild rabbits or rodents
  • Potential for bacteria like Salmonella due to improper food prep or storage
  • Disease transmission if rabbits have inadequate housing or veterinary care

To minimize risks, raise rabbits in clean hutches off the ground, feed commercially prepared feed, and schedule regular vet check-ups. Process and butcher the rabbits under sanitary conditions, cook thoroughly to an internal temperature of 160°F, and refrigerate meat properly. Freezing can also kill parasites. With proper husbandry, handling, and cooking, backyard rabbits can be perfectly safe to eat.

Are wild rabbits safe to eat?

Wild rabbits may carry more health risks compared to domesticated rabbits due to potential exposure to diseases. Two particular concerns with wild rabbits include:

  • Tularemia – Also called rabbit fever, this bacterial infection can spread to humans and can be life-threatening. Wild rabbits, rodents, and some birds can carry it.
  • Rabbit starvation – Eating only very lean meat like rabbit can result in protein poisoning and nutrient deficiencies over time if you don’t eat fat and plants too.

You should never eat a wild rabbit found already deceased, as there is no way to evaluate its health. If you hunt and harvest wild rabbits, have them tested for tularemia before consuming, wear gloves when handling, and cook thoroughly to at least 160°F internal temperature. Eat organ meats and other fats along with the lean muscle meat to avoid rabbit starvation. Freezing may also help eliminate parasites. Use proper food prep and storage methods once processed.

How should I prepare the rabbit meat?

Proper handling and cooking helps ensure your backyard rabbit is safe to eat:

  • Chill meat to below 40°F shortly after slaughter, similar to other livestock protocols.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before and during food prep.
  • Clean all surfaces, utensils, and cutting boards before working with the raw rabbit meat.
  • Defrost frozen rabbit in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
  • Marinate meat in the refrigerator, never on the counter.
  • Cook rabbit meat to an internal temperature of 160°F to eliminate bacteria and parasites.

Use rabbit meat soon after slaughter or freeze for long-term storage.

The FDA recommends following these same guidelines when preparing all game meats, including wild rabbit.

Safe Cooking Methods for Rabbit

Rabbit can be prepared similarly to chicken. Some recommended cooking methods include:

  • Roasted, baked, or grilled – Cook to 160°F measured with a meat thermometer.
  • Stewed or braised – Simmer pieces until very tender, about 90 minutes.
  • Sous vide – Cook at 140-150°F for 2-4 hours until pasteurized.
  • Slow cooker – Add liquid and cook on low for 8+ hours until tender.
  • Sauteed – Cook small pieces over high heat briefly until no longer pink.

Avoid eating raw or undercooked rabbit to minimize the risk of foodborne illness. Reheat all leftovers to 165°F.

What does rabbit meat taste like?

Rabbit meat is lean and high in protein, with a flavor profile often compared to chicken or turkey but with a slightly sweeter taste. The loin cuts are the leanest and mildest tasting. The legs have more fat, connective tissue, and robust flavor.

When cooked properly, rabbit is moist, delicate, and lightly sweet. The taste can vary slightly depending on the rabbit’s age and diet. Older rabbits may have a stronger flavor due to a higher fat content. Grass-fed rabbit has a pleasant, herbaceous note compared to rabbits fed commercial pellets.

Because rabbit is so lean, it’s important not to overcook it. Quick cooking methods like sauteing, grilling, or roasting help keep the meat juicy and tender. Slow braising connects and stews work well for older rabbits.

What is the nutrition profile of rabbit meat?

Rabbit meat is one of the leanest and healthiest protein sources available. Here is how 3 ounces of cooked rabbit compares nutritionally to other lean meats:

Meat Calories Total Fat Saturated Fat Protein
Rabbit 148 4g 1g 28g
Chicken breast 140 3g 1g 27g
Pork tenderloin 139 3g 1g 25g
Top sirloin steak 168 4g 2g 25g

Rabbit has slightly less fat than other lean meats and just as much protein. Wild rabbit tends to have less fat than domesticated breeds.

The protein in rabbit meat contains all the essential amino acids your body needs. Rabbit is also an excellent source of:

  • Phosphorus
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin B12
  • Niacin
  • Vitamin B2

Due to its leanness, rabbit can become dry if overcooked, so quick cooking methods should be used. Combine it with plant fats or oils in recipes to boost the flavor and moisture.

How much meat can I harvest from one rabbit?

The amount of edible meat you can harvest from a single rabbit depends on the size and breed. Here are some general guidelines on expected yields:

  • Smaller fryer rabbits (3-5 lbs) – About 2 pounds of meat
  • Medium sized rabbits (5-8 lbs) – About 3-4 pounds of meat
  • Larger roaster rabbits (8-11 lbs) – About 5-6 pounds of meat
  • Giant breeds (11+ lbs) – Up to 8+ pounds of meat

You can expect about a 50% yield on live weight for full-grown rabbits, a bit less for younger fryers. The highest value cuts are the loin, hind legs, and front legs. Don’t forget to save the organ meats like heart and liver which are also edible and nutritious.

With average sized rabbits in the 5-8 pound range, you’ll get approximately 10-12 servings of 3-4oz portions. Two rabbits could provide meat for most recipes to feed a family of four.

What dishes can I make with rabbit meat?

Rabbit’s versatile flavor and texture allows it to be substituted in many chicken, pork, or beef recipes. Some delicious ways to prepare backyard rabbit include:

Braises, Stews, Chilis

Tough cuts from older rabbits work well in moist dishes cooked low and slow:

  • Cacciatore or stew braised in tomatoes, wine, herbs
  • Rosemary rabbit ragout with white beans
  • Rabbit and vegetable braise with bacon lardons
  • Posole stew with rabbit, hominy, peppers
  • Rabbit chili verde with tomatillos and green chiles

Sous Vide

Cooking rabbit via sous vide helps ensure it stays tender:

  • Sous vide rabbit legs – Finish by searing
  • Sous vide rabbit loin with herbs – Slice over salad
  • Sous vide then grill or roast – Helps keep meat from drying out


Small diced or ground rabbit cooks quickly in a pan or wok:

  • Stir fries with vegetables and sauce
  • Fajitas or tacos with peppers and onions
  • Pot pie or gravy with vegetables and cream
  • Paella or jambalaya as part of the protein

Grilled and Roasted

Healthy cooking methods for rabbit’s delicate flavor:

  • Marinated and grilled like chicken or shrimp
  • Grilled kabobs with vegetables
  • Stuffed and roasted whole rabbit or loin
  • Roasted rabbit legs, saisond like chicken drumsticks

Ground and Meatballs

Use less desirable sections ground into a versatile minced or paste:

  • Burger patties – Mix with pork or beef fat for moisture
  • Meatballs in sauce – Serve over pasta, in soup, with glaze
  • Ragu sauce for pasta – Slow simmered tomato sauce
  • Dumplings or dim sum – Combined with pork in dough

Cured and Smoked

Try curing cuts like legs for fuller flavor:

  • Cured rabbit legs – Smoke or air dry like prosciutto
  • Corned rabbit – Brined then boiled like corned beef
  • Smoked rabbit sausage or jerky


Backyard rabbits make a healthy, sustainable protein source if handled properly from field to table. When fed a natural diet and processed under sanitary conditions, rabbit meat offers a lean, nutrient-dense alternative to conventionally raised meats. Follow safe handling procedures through butchering, prep, and cooking to minimize any potential health risks. The delicate, mildly sweet flavor of rabbit allows it to swap seamlessly into many classic recipes. With proper husbandry and hygiene, eating a rabbit from your own backyard can be perfectly legal and safe.

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