When discussing rabbit breeds we are only looking at those breeds preferred for their meat. For that reason there are a couple of criteria to keep in mind. The giant breeds like the Flemish Giants do produce large fryers with a lot of meat. However, they also have larger bones, so the meat to bone ratio is not as good as some of the smaller breeds.
The rabbit breeds most commonly raised for meat are the California and the New Zealand White. They are both known for high milk production, ability to be bred frequently, and for producing large litters.
Good Meat to Bone Ratio
The California is a meat rabbit developed in the United States. Typically they weigh about 9-10 pounds and have white fur with black nose, ears, feet and tail. They are usually rather plump but have fine bones, meaning there’s a good ratio of meat to bone. A California doe will usually produce a little of 6-8 babies.
The New Zealand meat rabbits is another breed developed in the United Stated, weighing 10-13 pounds when full grown. Their fur can range from white (thus “New Zealand White”) to red or black. They grow rapidly reaching 4-5 pounds by 8 weeks of age, with a well-muscled body and ears with prominent veins. A New Zealand doe will usually produce a litter of 8-10 babies.
Two other rabbit breeds bred and raised for their meat are the Champagne D’Argent and the Florida White. The Champagne is a medium length with larger hindquarters and usually weighs between 10 and 15 pounds when mature. On the other hand the Florida White is smaller, only 4-6 pounds and considered a better breed for the fryer market. It is becoming more and more popular with the backyard breeders of meat rabbits.
Here are just a few facts about the meat produced by rabbits:
- Cholesterol and fat is lower than pork, beef, turkey or even chicken
- Rabbit meat is highest in protein %
- USDA reports that it is the most nutritious meat available
- A single 10-pound doe can produce 320 pounds of meat per year!
- With the same about of food and water, rabbits will produce 6 pounds of meat while a cow will produce one pound of meat!
- Rabbit milk is so nutritious that the babies can double their weight in 6 days. Compared to 14 days for piglets, 47 days for calves and 160 days for human infants.
- Since meat rabbits live off the ground they are one of the cleanest meats
- The most productive domestic livestock includes rabbits
- Rabbit meat is all white
- Rabbit meat is similar to veal, yet costs about half
There are links online for finding breeders of the various meat rabbit breeds. Before buying breeding pairs, ask if you can see where they are being raised. Beware though that in an effort to keep down the introduction of disease some breeders will not permit you to tour their facility.