West Virginians who raise rabbits on a small
scale may now sell the meat at farmers’ markets and through consignment shops after
registering with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA). A
Legislative code change this year exempted a limited number of rabbits from
inspection and slaughter at premises where they are raised.
The rule covers those who raise and
slaughter up to 1,000 rabbits in a calendar year. The premises must be
registered with the WVDA, which is free of charge, but does not have to undergo
inspections. The producers must follow WVDA-approved guidelines:
No person with a contagious disease can process
Only healthy rabbits are eligible for
Rabbits must be slaughtered in a humane method.
Rabbits must be slaughtered and dressed in a
sanitary manner. Cooling of rabbits must start immediately after slaughter and
rabbits must be chilled to less than 40 degrees within 24 hours.
Rabbits may be sold fresh but must be frozen if
not sold within 72 hours
Equipment used in the processing of rabbits
must be cleaned and sanitized as necessary.
Rabbits and rabbit parts must have the
processor’s name and address, product name, net weight, safe handling
instructions, and slaughter date on each package label.
Sale and production records must be provided to
a WV Department of Agriculture compliance officer/inspector if and when
Producers must keep records for a minimum of
Previously, rabbit meat could only be sold if
it was processed in a licensed facility. The change in the rules is expected to
be a boost for small farmers who may produce up to 25,000 pounds of rabbit meat
annually. The new rule also allows the WVDA to monitor the slaughter/sale of
rabbits and to what markets. The rabbit producers still have fewer requirements
than those raising animals such as cattle, chickens, and pigs.
You can find the application for Registration to Slaughter and/or Process
Rabbits Under Exemption on our website at www.agriculture.wv.gov.