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Process the carcass immediately. Leaving the guts inside the carcass will absolutely destroy it.
Hang the rabbit head down immediately.
Grab the rabbit’s ears and pull gently to reveal the back of the neck. Cut through from the back of the neck through the throat to remove the head. The rabbit will bleed out as the heart continues to beat.
Cut off the front legs with your shears.
Cut around each leg just below the hock, being careful not to cut through the tendons on the back of the leg if possible. You may accidently cut them when you are first starting out. Take your time and be as careful as possible. Practice will make this easier.
Slice from the anus area up along the leg to the first cuts. If you intend to keep your pelt, and your rabbit has a pelt that is differently colored on the belly, it is useful to follow the line where the fur changes color.
Pull on the pelt on one leg at a time where you made the first cut, peeling the pelt back as you go. If you accidently cut the tendon, you may have to use your knife to separate meat from skin. If you didn’t cut it, the skin should peel back easily.
Along the belly, closest to the groin, work the fingers of one hand from one leg opening to the other. Slide your knife in (you can also use scissors) and cut the pelt as close to the groin as possible.
Repeat the above step on the back of the rabbit, but grab the tail and hold it down in the hand that worked through the opening. When you cut through the pelt, try to ensure you cut through the tail bone at the same time, keeping the tail attached to the pelt if desired.
Pull steadily on the pelt, peeling it down the body and over the front legs. It will turn inside out and be one piece.
Set your hide aside. You may freeze it or salt it for later tanning.
Grab the belly skin and pull gently to one side. Make a small incision, being careful not to nick the bladder (this is why we pull to one side). Set down your knife (trust me), and insert your two index fingers into the opening and pull gently until the skin separates. I call this “zipping the rabbit open.” Some of the intestines are likely to spill out.
Remove the bladder. Pinch it gently at the top and cut ABOVE your fingers. Dispose. If you accidently get urine on your meat, just be sure to rinse it well.
Grasp the stomach gently and disconnect it, pulling it out of the carcass and the intestines should follow. Unless you intend to use the stomach and intestines for raw feeding, it is recommended that you dispose of them. Some rabbits will get a lot of air in their intestines during this process; that is normal, and is caused from the stress of being moved, handled, and then dispatched.
Remove the kidneys (two small kidney-bean shaped organs along the spine).
Remove the liver. Set aside for later examination.
Puncture the diaphragm (the thin film behind the front legs) to reveal the lungs and heart. Scoop two fingers under the heart and pull steadily. The heart and lungs should come out together. Set the lungs aside for later examination.
Next, cut the connecting tissue and skin around the anus, removing it from the tail and slicing along both legs. Spread the legs until you can see the thin white line that indicates where the bones meet. Work the tip of your knife into this line and twist to break the connection. Remove the rest of the intestines and the anus. You now have a clean, empty, edible carcass.
While processing your carcass, it's an ideal time to check the health of your herd. Examine your rabbit’s liver and lungs to check for potential health issues. The liver should be an even color with no spotting. Spots can indicate diseases such as coccidia. Lungs should be an even color with no spots of pus. Pus can indicate respiratory illness. Lungs with lots of red just means the rabbit likely aspirated during dispatching.
You may use your carcass whole, or continue on to 'quarter' it. Remove the front legs. They are not attached with bone or joints, just tissue. Remove the belly flaps (great for rabbit bacon or jerky). Cut along the back legs, pull to separate the joint, and then cut through the joint to remove the back legs. Cut along the inside of the loin, then cut along the back and separate. Rinse your meat well.
Meat should be rested for 24-48 hours if you are not going to use it immediately. This is so that rigor mortis can set in and dissipate before eating. If you eat a rabbit in rigor it will not hurt you, but the meat will not be as tender. Meat may be frozen prior to rigor, by the time it’s thawed it will have completed the process.