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Rabbit Processing


Rabbits are killed by one of two methods. The preferred method is dislocation of the neck. The rabbit is held firmly by the rear legs and head; it is stretched full length. Then with a hard, sharp pull, the head is bent backward to dislocate the neck. The rabbit can also be struck a hard, quick blow to the skull behind the ears. A blunt stick or side of the hand is commonly used to incapacitate the rabbit. Both methods quickly render the rabbit unconscious.
After dislocation or stunning, the rabbit is hung by one of the hind legs above the hock joint. The head is immediately removed to allow complete bleeding. The forefeet are then removed. The next step is to cut the skin around the hock joints of the legs and then to cut between these points across the lower part of the body. Remove the tail and pull the skin down and forward over the body. The skins of young or fryer age rabbits are easily removed in this way; it is more difficult to remove the skins of older rabbits. If skins are saved for marketing, they should be handled as indicated in the Rabbit Skins and Pelts section.
After the head, forefeet and skin are removed, the carcass, while still hanging, is opened to remove the viscera. Make a cut from the lower part of the abdomen near the anus to the mid-point of the lowest rib. The intestinal tract and lungs are normally removed. Liver, kidneys, and heart remain with the carcass. Remove the carcass from the hanger and cut off the rear feet at the hock joint.
Wash the carcass with clean, cold water to remove hair and any other soil or debris, and store it at a cold temperature, preferably at 35oF. and not over 40oF. Do not hold dressed carcasses for any length of time in water as they absorb excess moisture which becomes considered as a contaminant. When large numbers of rabbits are to be slaughtered, the operation on an assembly line basis is much more rapid and efficient.
Dressed rabbits may be sold whole or can be cut into parts. Various types of marketing devices (plastic cartons and trays) are available for packaging one or more carcasses.
jeff mccarthy

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