Last Updated on March 11, 2023 by Marjon Ramos
Rabbit meat has been eaten for thousands of years due to its abundance in nature as well as the nutritional value it provides. Rabbit meat is high in protein while being low in fat and cholesterol.
Due to the high amounts of protein in rabbit meat while simultaneously having a low-fat content, eating rabbit meat exclusively might lead to what’s called protein poisoning or rabbit starvation.
Protein poisoning mainly happens because our body needs fat to function. Eating rabbit meat exclusively (which is low in fat) would eventually lead to this.
Rabbit meat might also carry zoonotic diseases that can be passed on to humans. An example would be tularemia, parasites, and eternal parasites like ringworms.
While most of the parasites, bacteria, and other zoonotic diseases can be killed by cooking the rabbit properly, there are still cases where people get sick from eating them.
Now that I’ve given you the gist of the article, read on as I explain in more detail the dangers of eating rabbit meat:
Table of Contents
Risk of eating wild rabbit meat.
While eating rabbit meat is safe and nutritious if prepared and cooked properly, there’s still some risk associated with eating rabbit meat.
Here are some risks associated with eating wild rabbit meat:
Otherwise known as “rabbit fever,” is a disease caused by the bite of infected insects like ticks and deerflies that pass on the bacterium Francisella tularensis to the person handling the infected animal.
Symptoms of tularemia in humans include the following:
- Skin ulcers
- Swollen lymph glands
- Inflamed eyes
- Sore throat
- Mouth sores
Rabbits with tularemia are also known to have a liver with white spots. So if you encounter one while you’re gutting your rabbit meat, discard it immediately.
You should also make it a habit of wearing gloves while handling wild animal meat to further lower the chance of contracting zoonotic diseases.
Rabbit meat also hosts a variety of parasites like warbles, flukes, and intestinal worms. Most of these parasites can be killed by cooking the meat properly or to internal temperatures of 160 °F.
Warbles are caused by botflies laying their eggs on the rabbit’s hide, which then burrow under the rabbit’s skin after the larvae hatch. Warbles would then appear as raised bumps on the surface of the rabbit meat, which can easily be removed with a knife.
While rabbit meat infested with warbles is perfectly edible if cooked properly, some hunters will discard the meat if they spot it.
Intestinal parasites would only be a problem if you directly ate the rabbit’s gut.
Ringworms and other external parasites such as fleas, ticks, and lice are also known to be transmitted from rabbits to humans. This usually happens when handling rabbit meat in the summer when these parasites are more active.
Protein poisoning, or “rabbit starvation,” happens when a person exclusively eats rabbit meat for long periods of time. Our bodies need fat to function properly. But because rabbit meat contains so little of it, eating it exclusively would often lead to rabbit starvation.
Symptoms of protein poisoning:
- Death in extreme cases
How to make eating rabbit meat as safe as possible?
Here are some things you can do to make eating rabbit meat as safe as possible:
- Cook it properly. According to the USDA, rabbit meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160°F to be considered safe.
- Wear protection. Wearing protective gear such as proper hunting clothes (gloves, goggles, etc.) and insect repellants would ensure that potential tick bites are minimized as much as possible. You should also wear gloves while gutting and preparing the rabbit meat to protect against blood-borne diseases.
- Never eat rabbit meat exclusively. As mentioned above, make sure you’re only eating rabbit meat in moderation.
- Discard any rabbit meat that displays signs of disease. If you suspect or notice anything wrong with the rabbit, it’s best that you just discard it rather than risk contracting any zoonotic diseases. As mentioned above, rabbits that have tularemia have a liver that’s full of white spots.
Is it legal to eat rabbit meat?
While it’s legal to eat farmed rabbit meat, it’s illegal to sell wild rabbit meat that has not received the mark of inspection by the government.
But if you hunted the rabbit yourself, it’s completely legal to eat it. Just make sure that hunting rabbits is legal in your state.
Wild rabbit meat is completely safe to eat as long as you prepare it properly and only eat rabbit meat in moderation. Certain zoonotic diseases like tularemia and parasites are known to be transmitted from rabbits to humans.
The dangers of rabbit meat can be lessened by wearing proper protection while preparing it and cooking it thoroughly. External parasites such as ringworms and ticks can be avoided by wearing proper hunting gear (gloves, goggles, etc.).
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