Best Meat Rabbit Breeds And How To Choose The Right Breed For You

Choosing the right meat rabbit breed for your small farm can be hard. There are so many options and it can be tempting to go with which one you like the looks of best.

Buuuttt that might not result in the best meat harvest.

Raising rabbits for meat is one of the first things that new homesteaders should try. Rabbits don’t take up a lot of space and are not a bad starter animal for a beginner.

They can have their quarks but it is not too hard once you learn the basics.

Here are some things I am going to go over to help you decide wich meat rabbit breed is right for your situation.

  • How much space do you have?
  • How large of a rabbit are you prepared to handle?
  • The speed of growth for that breed.
  • Litter sizes (some have an average of 8 while others have in the low to mid-teens) that’s a lot of babies.
  • Bone mass.

Space Needed For Meat Rabbits

There are a lot of things that will take up space in the housing itself.  One rabbit on its own isn’t too bad but once you add the babies and nesting box you need a much bigger cage . Not to mention feed bowls as well as water bowls if you don’t use rabbit water bottles. (Personally, I think rabbit water bottles are a waste of money.) Most of these breeds have an average of 8 in a litter and some have been known to have as many as 12-15 in a litter. Granted not all survive. However, a litter of 7-10 is still a lot of babies. Especially when they finally leave the nest box. 

litter of large Flemish giant rabbits that are a meat rabbit breed

Once litters are around 6 weeks of age I highly recommend separating them either by sex or at least in half so they are not trying to compete for food. 

Even if you are keeping the feeders full there are some that get pushed aside and won’t grow as well due to overcrowding. I know you can’t separate them all especially if you have a lot in the litter but if you can get each group down to 3 jrs per grouping then you should see some great results.

Recommended Cage Size by the ARBA for SINGEL Rabbits

PSA: These sizes are taken out of the publication Raising Better Rabbits and Cavies by the ARBA so if you don’t like what I share size-wise take it up with them. Of course, if you are able and want to have a bigger then go for it. 

  • 18x24x12 for rabbits under 6lbs
  • 24×26-36×18 for rabbits above 6lbs and under 11lbs
  • 24×36-48×18-24 high for rabbits above 12lbs

This is an ideal style of cage but they still need shelter from the wind and rain. 

If you need help finding the best rabbit cages read this post.

Recommended Cage Size by the ARBA for DOE and Litter

  • 48x30x18 high for doe and litter.

How Big Of A Meat Rabbit Breed Are You Ready To Handle

The bigger you go the more power that is behind that kick. The stronger your cages have to be. And The bigger your supplies have to be.

Just keep in mind that even if you don’t pick them up daily you will still have to move them for nail trimmings, assist with breedings (ahem… hint, they don’t always know what to do), and other tasks.

Be confident in your handling. If a rabbit thinks it can get away will nonsense or feels insecure with the handling it will start thrashing. 

I can’t tell you how many times I see rabbits that people say are a handful or the rabbit is being bossy. They bring it over and I have no problems handling it. Confidence and a solid grip is a must for the rabbit to feel safe. 

Speed Of Growth For The Meat Breed You Choose

You want a breed that will be ready to eat in no longer than 12 weeks. 14 weeks MAYBE.

If you start going past that you are going to start paying A LOT in feed. So when considering a breed or even a mix breed be sure to see what they are crossed with because there is a chance that the cross could make the babies be slow to mature.

Bone Mass On The Meat Rabbit Breeds

The larger breeds like French Lop and Flemish Giant have extremely large bone. I speak for all French lop breeders when I say we breed for it. The bigger the better.

The show-quality breeders are wanting as large of bone as they can get. This will cause how much meat you end up with to be significantly less.

So when choosing your meat breed take a look at the breed standard of perfection to help you decide if they would be good for meat. I will give you a basic description below of the top breeds.

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Tips For Buying Meat Rabbits

Here are some tips to help you look over the rabbit to make sure if it is healthy. 

  • Look at the rabbits overall body and watch for signs of underdevelopment. It could be things like it is oddly small for the stated age or it appears to be underweight. This could account for several things like having to be hand fed. The problem with that is they may not be great producers in turn.
  • Look at the eyes are bright and clear of seepage or fresh discharge. Rabbits can get “sleep dirt” but it should be fairly dry and not more than the size of the head of a pin.
  • Rabbits’ teeth should be even across the top and bottom. Not curled or overgrown. Rabbits’ teeth continually grow causing them to chew on literally anything so a VERY small chip (personally) I would excuse but if half the tooth is missing I would pass on the rabbit. Unless you are an experienced rabbit handler and are comfortable clipping the teeth to an even length.
  • There should be no discharge from the rabbit’s nose. BUT if the day is particularly hot and the rabbit has CLEAR discharge then it should be ok. When rabbits are hot it is normal to see clear discharge. Almost like they are sweating. You should not see any signs of snot.

My Top Rabbitry Must Haves

[lasso type=”list” category=”rabbit-care-supplies” link_id=”5295″]

Best Meat Rabbit Breeds

I don’t want to share meat breeds that are hard to find. Because what’s the point right? I am sharing the breeds that make the best meat producers as well as ones that are not too hard to find. 

The standard weights for each breed out of the American Rabbit Breeders Association Standard Of Perfection to help give you an idea of what to expect out of each breed at what stage of growth so you hopefully will be able to spot good producers and growth rates while you are looking for animals.

Keep in mind some of these images are not perfect representations of the breed as far as conformation goes. But these are the closest stock photos I could find of each breed and they should give you a good idea of what the breed looks like.

New Zealand (Max weight: 12lbs for doe’s – 11lbs for bucks)

new zealand meat rabbit
  • Sr Bucks – over the age of 8 months should weigh 9-11 pounds with an ideal weight of 10lbs
  • Sr Does – over the age of 8 months should weigh 10-12 pounds with an ideal weight of 11lbs
  • Intermediate Bucks – 6-8 months old, not over 10lbs
  • Intermediate Does – 6-8 months old, not over 11lbs
  • Junior bucks & Does – Under 6 months of age, not over 9lbs.
  • Pre-Junior Bucks & Does – Under 3 months of age, not over 6lbs

New Zealand’s are one of the most widely spread meat rabbit breeds. The animal should show meat-producing qualities. It should have well-rounded hips, well-filled loin, and ribs carrying forward to combine with the shoulders that balance with the rest of the body. Bone is to be straight, medium-heavy, and medium length. Hind legs and feet are to bull, firm, and stout.

One reason may be that this rabbit breed puts on weight quickly and has an exceptional meat-to-bone ratio. New Zealand rabbits grow rapidly as well. By 8 weeks old, kits have reached 8 pounds, with adults maturing to 9 to 12 pounds.

Source: petkeen.com

Californian (Max weight: 10 1/2 pounds)

Californian meat rabbit
  • Sr Bucks – over the age of 8 months should weigh 8-10 pounds with an ideal weight of 9lbs
  • Sr Does – over the age of 8 months should weigh 8.5-10.5 pounds with an ideal weight of 9.5lbs
  • Intermediate Bucks – 6-8 months old, not over 9lbs
  • Intermediate Does – 6-8 months old, not over 9.5lbs
  • Junior Bucks – Under 6 months of age, not over 8lbs.
  • Junior Does – Under 6 months of age, not over 8.5lbs.
  • Pre-Junior Bucks & Does – Under 3 months of age, not over 5.5lbs

Bone is to be medium in size with short legs. Hindquarters are to be broad, deep, smooth and well rounded with well-filled firm flesh. Loin is to be broad and deep with enough width to bled the hindquarters and midsection.

Personally, I like Californians better for production because they have a little less bone. However, they don’t tend to flesh out as young either. However one of the reasons for their popularity is that their fur extremely soft making it great for other products.

All of the meat rabbit breeds will have their own pros and cons.

American Chinchilla (Max weight: 12 pounds)

american chinchilla rabbit
  • Sr Bucks – over the age of 8 months should weigh 9-11 pounds.
  • Sr Does – over the age of 8 months should weigh 10-12 pounds.
  • Intermediate Bucks – 6-8 months old, not over 10lbs
  • Intermediate Does – 6-8 months old, not over 11lbs
  • Junior bucks & Does – Under 6 months of age, not over 9lbs.
  • Pre-Junior Bucks & Does – Under 3 months of age, not over 6lbs

American Chinchilla rabbit breed is considered a dual-purpose rabbit, as they’re used for both their meat and their fur. With a stocky body and a weight of up to 12 pounds, they’re considered one of the best meat rabbit breeds in the world. The American Chinchilla rabbit is often sought for their high-quality deep loin and broad shoulder, which can be found in a variety of smoked and cooked dishes from many different countries. Due to their popularity, the American Chinchilla is listed as endangered.

Source: petkeen.com

Satin (Max weight: 11 pounds)

  • Sr Bucks – over the age of 8 months should weigh 8.5-10.5 pounds with an ideal weight of 9.5lbs
  • Sr Does – over the age of 8 months should weigh 9-11 pounds with an ideal weight of 10lbs
  • Intermediate Bucks – 6-8 months old, not over 8lbs
  • Intermediate Does – 6-8 months old, not over 8.5lbs
  • Junior Bucks – Under 6 months of age, not over 9lbs.
  • Junior Does – Under 6 months of age, not over 9lbs.

Image: Lanafactum, Wikimedia Satin rabbit breed is one of the larger and heavier breeds of rabbit weighing about 12 pounds fully grown. With a broader build, it’s no surprise that Satin rabbits produce a fair amount of meat. They’re an ideal rabbit to raise for meat on a homestead. Satins are a cold, hardy meat rabbit. They have a calm and docile temperament.

Source: petkeen.com

**Anything below this point will be harder to find. It will also depend on what is popular near you but these breed tend to be less common.**

Champagne d’Argent (Max weight: 12 pounds)

  • Sr Bucks – over the age of 8 months should weigh 9-11 pounds with an ideal weight of 10lbs
  • Sr Does – over the age of 8 months should weigh 9.5-12 pounds with an ideal weight of 10.5lbs
  • Intermediate Bucks – 6-8 months old, not over 10lbs
  • Intermediate Does – 6-8 months old, not over 10.5lbs
  • Junior Bucks – Under 6 months of age, not over 9lbs.
  • Junior Does – Under 6 months of age, not over 9lbs.
  • Pre-Junior Bucks & Does – Under 3 months of age, not over 6lbs

Considered by some as the “Black Angus” of rabbit meats, the Champagne D Argent rabbit meat is highly regarded all over the world. This rabbit breed has been used for meat since 1631. Full-grown, the Champagne D’Argent weighs about 9 pounds. As a meat rabbit, this breed has a good meat-to-bone ratio. Champagne D’Argent is perfect for homestead living as a great starter rabbit. They can be raised for both fur and meat.

Source: petkeen.com

American (Max weight: 12 pounds)

  • Sr Bucks – over the age of 8 months should weigh 9-11 pounds with an ideal weight of 10lbs
  • Sr Does – over the age of 8 months should weigh 10-12 pounds with an ideal weight of 11lbs
  • Intermediate Bucks – 6-8 months old, not over 10lbs
  • Intermediate Does – 6-8 months old, not over 11lbs
  • Junior Bucks – Under 6 months of age, not over 9lbs
  • Junior Does – Under 6 months of age, not over 9lbs

Crème d’Argent (Max weight: 11 pounds)

  • Sr Bucks – over the age of 8 months should weigh 8-10.5 pounds with an ideal weight of 9lbs
  • Sr Does – over the age of 8 months should weigh 8.5-11 pounds with an ideal weight of 10lbs
  • Intermediate Bucks – 6-8 months old, not over 8.5lbs
  • Intermediate Does – 6-8 months old, not over 9.5lbs
  • Junior Bucks – Under 6 months of age, not over 7.5lbs
  • Junior Does – Under 6 months of age, not over 8lbs
  • Pre-Junior Bucks & Does – Under 3 months of age, not over 5lbs

Other Popular Meat Breeds And Why I Don’t Recommend Them

Flemish Giants – Like the French Lop they are slower to grow and have a large bone. They would take far to long to get enough meat out of them. 

young flemish giant meat rabbit breed

Dutch – They are a nice small rabbit but that is their downfall for meat production. They would be less than half the size and the litters are not as large either. 

Meat Rabbit Breed FAQ’S 

Which rabbit breed is the best for meat? If I had to choose personally I would go with the American Chinchilla as my first choice and New Zealand as my second. This depends on a lot but I personally feel the American chin will grow faster at a younger age. The NZ are just a touch slower. They also have the potential to be a bit larger-bodied than NZ. 

Is raising rabbits for meat worth it? If you are trying to save money. No. You can buy chicken and pork from the store for $1.99 lbs. But if you are looking to raise your own meat and don’t have the space for a hoofed animal then rabbits are a great choice. 

When raising rabbits for meat make sure to choose a breed you don’t mind working with. They may be for meat but you don’t want to completely hate working with them. 

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3 Comments

  1. Good points! I have been there; when you realize your kits need a new home and yet you have no more cages!!!! Improvising is good, planning is better 🙂
    I found you on the Simple Homestead blog hop!

  2. So glad you found it helpful! What breed do you raise?

  3. You are welcome to your opinion.

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