Dr. Andrea Middleton - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Andrea Middleton

Is Eating Rabbit Bad For You?



Short answer

No, rabbit meat is not bad for you and can be a healthy choice. It's an excellent source of high-quality protein and is lower in fat than many other meats, making it good for heart health. Rich in Vitamin B12 and minerals like iron and selenium, rabbit meat is both nutritious and low-calorie, which may help in weight management. It also provides omega-3 fatty acids, beneficial for cardiovascular health. However, proper handling and cooking are essential due to the risk of diseases and parasites, especially in wild rabbits.



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Long answer

Nutritional Value of Rabbit Meat

Rabbit meat is a highly nutritious choice for those considering adding a new type of protein to their diets. Lean and dense in essential nutrients, rabbit meat boasts an impressive profile that can contribute to a balanced diet. Here's a detailed look at the nutritional components that rabbit meat offers.

1. Protein Content:

Rabbit meat is an excellent source of high-quality protein, essential for muscle growth and repair, and overall health. Protein also plays a critical role in ensuring proper body function, acting as the building blocks for enzymes, hormones, and other body tissues. An average serving of rabbit meat can provide more than half the daily recommended amount of protein for an average adult.

2. Low-Fat Profile:

Compared to other meats, rabbit is particularly low in fat. This makes it a heart-healthy option, as low-fat diets can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. The fats found in rabbit meat are mostly unsaturated, which are more beneficial to heart health than saturated fats.

3. Vitamin B12:

Rabbit meat contains an abundance of Vitamin B12, a crucial nutrient necessary for red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis. A deficiency in Vitamin B12 can result in anemia and neurological disorders, making rabbit meat a great choice for maintaining adequate levels of this vitamin.

4. Minerals:

Rabbit meat includes a range of minerals vital for health, including potassium, phosphorus, selenium, and iron. Potassium supports heart health, phosphorus helps maintain bones and teeth, selenium plays a key role in metabolism and thyroid function, and iron is critical for preventing anemia and boosting energy levels.

5. Low Calorie:

With fewer calories than beef, pork, or chicken, rabbit meat is an ideal option for those looking to manage their weight. Its low calorie content, combined with a high protein level, may promote satiety and help control hunger, which can prevent overeating and contribute to a healthy weight-loss strategy.

6. Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

Rabbit meat also contains omega-3 fatty acids, known for their anti-inflammatory properties and benefits for cardiovascular health. Omega-3s are typically associated with fish, but rabbit meat can also be a good alternative source of these essential fats.

Here's a quick nutritional breakdown of rabbit meat (per 100g serving):

Nutrient Amount
Calories 173
Protein 33.0 g
Total Fat 3.5 g
Saturated Fat 1.1 g
Cholesterol 77 mg
Vitamin B12 7.6 mcg
Iron 4.4 mg
Phosphorus 272 mg
Selenium 10.2 mcg
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Omega-3 content varies depending on the rabbit's diet

It's important for individuals to consider their own dietary needs and restrictions when evaluating the nutritional value of rabbit meat. Incorporating rabbit into a diet should be done thoughtfully, with consideration for its high protein and nutrient content, balanced against any dietary limits one may have. Always consult with a healthcare provider or a nutritionist when making significant changes to your diet.

As for sourcing, choosing rabbit meat from reputable producers that practice responsible, humane, and sustainable farming methods ensures not only the ethical treatment of animals but also meat quality and nutritional integrity.

When consumed as part of a varied and balanced diet, rabbit meat is not only safe but can also be a healthy and nutritious source of essential nutrients. However, as with any dietary choice, moderation is key, and it's important to consume a variety of protein sources to ensure a broad spectrum of nutrients in your diet.

Comparisons to Other Meats: Health and Environmental Impact

Evaluating the health and environmental impact of eating rabbit meat requires a comparative analysis with other commonly consumed meats like chicken, beef, and pork.

Health Comparison:

  • Nutritional Content: Rabbit meat is high in protein and low in fat compared to other meats. A 100-gram serving of rabbit meat typically contains about 33 grams of protein, which is higher than the protein content in chicken, beef, or pork. Moreover, it has a low-fat content, roughly 3-5 grams per serving, making it a leaner choice.
  • Cholesterol Levels: The cholesterol content of rabbit meat is relatively low as well. Regular consumption of foods high in cholesterol can lead to heart disease and stroke, thus making rabbit meat a heart-friendly option.
  • Vitamin Content: This type of meat also offers a good source of essential vitamins such as B12, which is vital for nerve health and the production of DNA. Compared to beef and pork, rabbit meat also has a higher concentration of other B vitamins, including B3 (niacin), which is important for digestion and skin health.
  • Minerals: Rabbit meat provides important minerals like potassium and phosphorus. Its phosphorus content, essential for bone health, is significantly higher than that found in chicken.

Environmental Comparison:

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Production of rabbit meat is associated with lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to beef and pork. According to a study by the Environmental Working Group, beef production emits 27.0 kg of CO2-eq per kilogram of meat, whereas small animals like rabbits have a much lower footprint.
  • Land Use: Rabbit farming requires less land than cattle or pig farming. Rabbits can be raised in smaller spaces and can convert feed to muscle mass more efficiently than cattle, making them a more sustainable choice in terms of land use.
  • Water Use: Similarly, the water footprint of rabbit meat is less than that of beef or pork. Rabbits do not require large grazing fields and can be fed with less water-intensive feed, reducing the overall water usage.
  • Biodiversity: Small-scale rabbit farming is considered to be more beneficial for biodiversity. Large-scale beef or pork production often leads to deforestation and habitat loss, whereas rabbit farms can be integrated into diverse agricultural landscapes with less ecological disruption.

It's important to note that these environmental factors can vary depending on the specific practices of the farm, such as the use of feed, antibiotics, and the management of waste products. Moreover, the environmental impact also depends on factors such as transportation and processing methods. When considering the sustainability and ethical aspects of eating meat, it's essential to look at the entire supply chain.

In conclusion, from a nutritional standpoint, rabbit meat stands out as a protein-rich, low-fat alternative to chicken, beef, and pork. Additionally, its production tends to have a lower environmental impact, making it a potentially more sustainable and eco-friendly choice for consumers conscious about their ecological footprint.

Potential Risks: Diseases and Parasites in Wild vs. Farmed Rabbit

When considering the potential risks associated with consuming rabbit meat, it's imperative to distinguish between wild and farmed sources. Both can carry certain health risks, primarily from diseases and parasites, which are critical for consumers to be aware of.

Diseases in Wild Rabbits:

  • Tularemia - Also known as rabbit fever or deer fly fever, tularemia is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. It’s a serious infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans through handling of sick or dead animals or via bites of infected arthropods. Symptoms in humans include fever, skin ulcers, and swollen lymph glands.
  • Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) - A highly contagious viral disease that affects rabbits, causing fever, fatality, and internal bleeding, though it is not known to infect humans.

Diseases in Farmed Rabbits:

  • Pasteurellosis - A bacterial infection caused by Pasteurella spp. that can lead to respiratory illnesses in rabbits. While it's more common in animal husbandry settings, zoonotic transmission to humans is rare.
  • Staphylococcus aureus - A bacterium commonly present on skin and respiratory tracts, which can infect rabbits resulting in abscesses or septicaemia. In humans, it can cause various infections, some potentially serious, if proper food safety measures are not followed.

Parasites in Wild and Farmed Rabbits:

  • Tapeworms - Rabbits can be carriers of various species of tapeworms, which can infest humans if the meat is consumed raw or undercooked. Proper cooking and hygiene significantly reduce this risk.
  • Encephalitozoon cuniculi - A microsporidian parasite that can cause kidney disease, and nervous system disorders in rabbits and potentially immunocompromised humans.
  • Toxoplasmosis - Caused by Toxoplasma gondii, this parasite can be present in rabbit meat. It is generally harmless to healthy individuals but can pose a risk to pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.

Regardless of the source, it’s crucial for the safety of the consumer that rabbit meat is properly handled and cooked. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cooking game meat to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) to reduce the risk of infection from parasites and bacteria. Adopting good hygienic practices during handling and cooking is also essential.

For those raising or hunting rabbits for consumption, wearing protective gloves when handling carcasses, avoiding consumption of sick or found dead rabbits, and being mindful of the animal’s environment can be significant preventative measures against these risks.

Scientific studies have contributed to our understanding of these risks, such as the research published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, highlighting the importance of proper cooking practices to mitigate the health risks associated with consuming rabbit meat (DOI: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2014.03.014).

In summary, while rabbit can be a nutritious and lean source of protein, the potential risks posed by diseases and parasites, particularly in wild rabbits, necessitate a cautious approach to selection, handling, and preparation. Ensuring that the meat comes from reputable sources and adhering to food safety guidelines is paramount for the prevention of foodborne illnesses.

Cuisine and Cultural Perspectives on Eating Rabbit

Rabbit meat, while less common in some cuisines, is a staple in various parts of the world and has a rich history that reflects the cultural significance and dietary preferences of different regions. It's essential to understand these perspectives to appreciate the broader context of rabbit consumption.

European Cuisine: In countries like France and Italy, rabbit is considered a traditional delicacy. French cuisine, for instance, is known for dishes such as 'Lapin à la moutarde', a classic dish where the rabbit is cooked with mustard and herbs. In Italian gastronomy, rabbit is often found in 'Coniglio alla cacciatora', a hunter-style dish prepared with olives, capers, and anchovies. These presentations not only showcase the meat's versatility but also its cultural significance.

Maltese Cuisine: Malta boasts a unique dish known as 'Stuffat tal-fenek', which is a slow-cooked rabbit stew and regarded as the national dish. This reflects the prominence of rabbit meat in their diet and culinary traditions.

Asian Cuisine: In certain parts of China, rabbit is a common ingredient. Sichuan cuisine, for example, features a spicy dish called 'Spicy Rabbit Head', considered a delicacy and believed to have health benefits. Conversely, in other areas of Asia, rabbit meat is consumed less frequently, and in some cultures, it might even be taboo.

American Cuisine: In the United States, rabbit consumption varies greatly. While it's not a mainstream meat choice, it is gaining popularity among those interested in sustainable and lean protein sources. High-end restaurants and local butchers are more likely to offer rabbit meat, reflecting a niche but growing market.

African Cuisine: In some African nations, particularly those with a significant rural population, rabbit meat is a valued protein source and often farmed for both personal consumption and local trade.

It's important to note that the moral and ethical views on consuming rabbit meat can be quite personal and are often influenced by cultural norms. While some cultures embrace it as a sustainable and traditional food source, others might avoid it due to ethical considerations or because it's not a common food in their dietary customs.

When analyzing the health implications of eating rabbit, awareness of these cultural nuances is paramount. Dieticians and health experts recognize that food choices are deeply intertwined with cultural identity, and any nutritional guidance should be given with respect and understanding of individual beliefs and practices.

In summary, rabbit meat is a part of various traditional diets around the world, each with its unique cooking methods and cultural significances. Its role in these cuisines highlights the diversity and adaptability of rabbit as an ingredient. However, the acceptability and popularity of rabbit meat are shaped by regional, historical, and cultural factors, which can vary widely from one community to another.

Frequently asked questions

Over-consumption of any food, including rabbit meat, can lead to nutritional imbalances. While rabbit meat is beneficial due to its high content of vitamins, such as B12, and minerals like phosphorus and selenium, it's important to consume it in moderation and include a variety of other protein sources to ensure a balanced intake of all essential nutrients.

Yes, individuals with high cholesterol can consider rabbit meat as a dietary option due to its low cholesterol levels and high proportion of unsaturated fats. However, it should still be consumed in moderation, as part of a balanced diet, and upon the advice of a healthcare provider.

While rabbit meat does contain omega-3 fatty acids, the levels are generally lower than those found in fatty fish, such as salmon or mackerel. Fish are recognized as the superior source of omega-3s due to their higher concentration and the presence of EPA and DHA, two crucial types of omega-3 fats that offer significant cardiovascular benefits.

Yes, rabbit meat is an excellent source of protein for individuals following a ketogenic (keto) diet. With its high protein content and low carbohydrate value, it fits well into the macronutrient distribution required for a state of ketosis, which focuses on high protein and fat intake with minimal carbs.

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Ingredients to be aware of


  • high in protein
  • low in fat
  • heart-healthy
  • rich in vitamins and minerals
  • good source of vitamin b12
  • high in phosphorus
  • contains omega-3 fatty acids
  • low in calories

Healthier alternatives

  • variety of protein sources
  • plant-based proteins

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Jack Link's Turkey Jerky

  • 12g protein per serving
  • Only 80 calories
  • 100% premium beef
  • 96% fat-free
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Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-29-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 02-29-2024

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