The importance of prey processing as an integral part of foraging behaviour has long been acknowledged, but little theoretical consideration has been given to the optimization of the processing behaviour itself. Processing renders food down to ingestible, palatable portions, and also removes non-essential mass thus reducing transport costs. Here, several models of processing are developed for a central place forager. When the forager has to make a simple choice between processing the prey and not, a critical distance from the central place can be calculated, beyond which it is optimal to process prey. If the forager also decides on how much of the prey to remove, the optimal amount to be removed can also be calculated. Imposing a ceiling on overall metabolic expenditure is shown to reduce the distances at which processing becomes the optimal strategy. The models are tested using parameters derived for a provisioning merlin, Falco columbarius, and alternative explanations as to why observed behaviours should differ from the optimal behaviour predicted are discussed.