Thursday, October 10, 2013

Inconclusive research says ? ? ?

A crazy pair of days later and here we are at the day I said I'd talk about what our considerations and thoughts were on making money with rabbits brought up by conversation with the folks over at Crabapple Farm. Of course being too busy means having not thought and researched enough, but I'm going to do what I can with what I have, and would love to have people who may know more chime in.

The big step one is figuring out legality of selling rabbit meat. After looking for a good long while the Lady of the House and I have not been able to figure out the exact legality of selling rabbit meat in Massachusetts. The USDA does not govern the sale of rabbit meat which was step one that we could determine for sure. Step two is looking at state legislation about it, and I just haven't been able to really figure that out. The common wisdom of folks in MA is that the sale of live rabbit is legal without licensing, as is butchering for people, but that selling pre packaged rabbit meat requires inspection or processing in a proper facility. So far though in poking through code I haven't been able to find anything like guidelines for selling rabbit meat, but it may be legal to sell to individuals but not restaurants, so far it's been very confusing.
Given that the folks at Crabapple Farm are looking into this particular issue as well I'm really hoping that they find something that the Lady of the House and I have been unable to locate. Unfortunately that particular piece of information is absolutely vital to the entire discussion of the facility and reality of looking at rabbits from a commercial perspective.

One of the things that we got reminded of by a Vet and Animal Science professor at UMass is, Rabbits are great for small scale production on a homestead or personal consumption scale. The reason that there is so  little information about them at state extension offices, the USDA, and the like is that they don't actually scale up well. Given what we do, and what the folks at Crabapple Farm would be considering that isn't so big of an issue.
Obviously the Lady of the House and I aren't planning to become a commercial rabbit farm, but it would be nice to be able to know it's ok to under certain circumstances sell some rabbit meat. A good number of times we've had people approach us for rabbit and while we have yet to have the surplus we've hoped for, we wouldn't have been able to sell even if we did. If rabbit weren't our only meat source for instance, or if we even further reduced our meat intake we could easily have surplus with just the rabbits we have. In fact, if we hadn't had heat sterility which we should really start factoring in for the future, a botched too early breeding, and some small litters out of Twilight we'd have a huge surplus needing 52 rabbits a year, and even with effectively 50% of our breedings wasted we have 47 on hand. I think that the concept of selling rabbit meat and what it'll take is going to continue to come up as we go into the future. With 4 breeding females it should be entirely reasonable on 4 breedings a year allowing for substantial rest and no cold breeding risk to get nearly 100 kits in a year. Reality says weather occurs, but still, if we're going to continue having both Blue and Creme lines, we need to figure out what to do with the surplus that isn't good enough quality to sell as breeding stock.

 While I am certainly not an anti regulation proponent, I do feel that it shouldn't require hiring a lawyer to figure out if, and how selling meat is legal.

Edited to add: Obviously we can offer no legal advice, laws vary by state, and don't go out and sell or not sell rabbit meat based just on us saying "I have no idea!"


  1. From what I've read, the laws on this a really complicated and range hugely from state to state (and county to county). There was an article in the Seattle paper about raising rabbits for meat, and they talked about how the only certified slaughter-house/butcher was way out on the islands (at least 100 miles and a ferry away), but they didn't talk about sale. (You can of course do it yourself; it was more of a warning to the squemish.)

    1. Yeah, that's a very similar problem to out here in MA. I think it comes down to, when rabbit isn't hunted game the regulatory bodies aren't sure how to handle it.