You might not have second thoughts about eating beef, pork, or chicken, but how do you feel about rabbit meat? Your response may vary depending on which country you live in. Rabbit meat was plentiful and served frequently in the United States until the mid-20th century. It’s still eaten in the U.S., though not nearly as much as in the past.
Do you want to learn how to cook rabbit meat? On one hand, these cute, fluffy animals are kept as pets, but on the other hand, rabbit meat is a sustainable, healthy source of protein that has kept people alive through dark periods of history like the Great Depression. Learn more about rabbit meat nutrition as well as safe handling practices in the following guide.
Can You Eat Rabbit Meat?
Rabbit meat is very safe to eat when cooked thoroughly in the same way that you might cook other animal meats. But people around the world have drastically different opinions on the topic of using rabbits for food — despite the fact that this small animal has nearly always been eaten by humans.
Animal rights activists, as well as everyday citizens, may be uncomfortable with eating rabbits because they’re kept as pets in many countries. In some areas, rabbits are treated better than in others: It’s better to raise them in groups because they're social animals instead of in small, singular cages, but this can be expensive and unsustainable for smaller farms.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Eating Rabbit Meat for Your Health?
Pros. Most people find rabbit meat pleasant to eat, as it has a mild flavor that can be seasoned to taste and used in many dishes, including stews and stir-fries. Rabbit is a lean protein, which means that it’s good for your heart and won’t contribute to high cholesterol or heart disease.
Cons. The downsides of eating rabbit meat are mostly psychological. You may balk at the idea of eating a petlike animal even if you’ve never kept a rabbit as a pet. If this doesn’t bother you, you may be put off by the fact that rabbit meat can be hard to find at a grocery store. If you live in a rural area, you may not have the option of visiting a smaller butcher shop that stocks rarer meats.
Additionally, many people do not have the time or desire to learn how to hunt their own rabbit meat. If you do hunt, or if you’re given rabbit meat from someone else’s hunting trip, it’s important to clean and store your fresh meat safely so that it doesn’t go bad.
What Nutrients Are in Rabbit Meat?
Rabbit meat health benefits are plentiful. Like most animal products, rabbit meat is a great source of protein, but unlike beef, rabbit doesn't contain much fat. According to the dietary guidelines of the World Health Organization, it’s OK to eat meat, but you should eat mostly lean meat and get most of your fats from plant sources like avocado and plant oils.
Protein. A 100 gram portion of rabbit meat contains 29.1 grams of protein. Protein is an essential nutrient that functions as a building block for your muscles, skin, hair, and nails. This portion of rabbit meat may net you up to one-third of your daily protein requirement.
Vitamin B-12. This vitamin is found in meat and dairy foods, and it’s important for making and metabolizing new red blood cells. If you’ve been trying to eat a more heart-healthy diet and you’ve stopped eating as many meats as you used to, you may not be getting enough vitamin B-12. When you eat rabbit meat, you consume protein, essential vitamins, and minerals without eating too many unhealthy fats that are found in other meats.
Selenium. Most adults need 55 micrograms per day of this nutrient that boosts the immune system and aids healthy thyroid function. Rabbit meat contains 38.5 micrograms per 100 gram serving, which makes it a great source of selenium.
How Many Calories Are in Rabbit Meat?
A 100 gram portion of rabbit meat contains 197 calories, which is similar to 100 grams of a lean sirloin steak, which contains 177 calories. In contrast, 100 grams of a fattier cut of beef like a rib eye steak contains 291 calories.
Is Rabbit Meat Safe to Eat?
If you enjoy the savory, distinct rabbit meat taste, you don’t have to buy a shotgun and start scoping out the best places to hunt these small animals. Imported rabbit meat is available in many local butcher shops, farmers’ markets, and even some grocery stores.
When you’re buying (or hunting) and cooking any type of animal, it’s a good idea to review the guidelines around cleaning, cooking, and storing the meat to make sure that you don’t get food poisoning. Consider the following guidelines to ensure that your family stays healthy.
Sourcing rabbit meat. Your local grocery store might or might not sell rabbit meat. If you live in a rural area, you may check a locally owned shop or a farmer’s market. It’s possible to hunt your own rabbit meat instead of buying it at the store — but hunting is not as simple as it sounds. Educate yourself on gun safety and make plans to transport and clean the animal so the meat does not spoil.
Cooking rabbit meat. Regardless of whether you choose to roast, braise, sauté, or bake your rabbit meat, it’s important to use a meat thermometer to gauge the internal temperature of the dish. Your rabbit meat should reach 160°F on a thermometer that measures the internal temperature of the meat.
Storing rabbit meat. Like beef or chicken, cooked rabbit meat leftovers can be safely stored in the fridge for a few days or frozen for a few months if you intend to eat them later. If you freeze raw rabbit meat, don't place it on the countertop or in hot water to thaw. This will lead to bacteria growth that can make you sick. Instead, place it in the fridge and let it defrost over the next day or so.
You can safely consume fully cooked rabbit meat in a variety of stews, soups, and baked dishes. Use your creativity to enjoy this lean, versatile, and heart-healthy meat as often as you like.