Meat rabbits have been bred over years with meat production in mind. Their bodies are described as being "commercial" in type, that is, muscular or well-muscled (full of meat).
New Zealand rabbits are a quintessential meat-type rabbit.
According to Rabbit Production (Cheeke, Patton, Lukefahr and McNitt, 1987, pg 190), a weanling rabbit gains a pound for every 3 pounds of feed consumed. And generally speaking, you can expect the doe and her litter together to eat 3.5 - 4 pounds of feed per pound of the litter’s weight gain, up until market day. This research is based on the New Zealand White rabbit, which is most often raised in commercial rabbitries due to rapid weight gain and the desirability of the white pelt. Studies have not been done on other breeds.
New Zealand White fryers are typically 4 1/2 to 5 pounds live weight (market weight) by 8 weeks of age.
The New Zealand White, however, is not the only breed of meat rabbit, especially if you’re planning to raise rabbits in your backyard on a small scale for the needs of your family. Our family raises Rex rabbits (not listed), which don’t compete with New Zealands (or many of the other breeds listed below) for days-to-market. Rex youngsters are closer to 10 weeks old at 5 pounds. But we also chose Rex rabbits because of their lovely fur.
The weights of the following breeds top out at 10 1/2 pounds or more.
The All Rabbit Breeds page will give you a link to the breed’s national breed club.
These breeds are presented as "best choices" if you're interested in raising rabbits for their meat. They are big rabbits with meaty bodies.
But after these distinctions, every breed has something different to offer, most notably colors, as exemplified in the Crème d'Argent above.
There are still a few breeds not listed here that you might legitimately consider for raising rabbits for meat. These would be breeds you could say are fairly large, maybe 7 - 10 pounds, or so. Our dual-purpose Rex rabbits fall into this category. Consider one of these 'fairly large' breeds if you are particularly intrigued by something about the breed. Recognize that you will probably harvest the rabbits at, say, 4 pounds instead of 5.
The ARBA recognizes six super-economy-sized rabbit breeds. The standard of five of these giant rabbit breeds list no maximum weight, and the maximum for the 6th is 16 pounds.
The following giant breeds make fine meat rabbits as well, however keep in mind that the dress-out weight might not be as attractive as you might hope, due to the fact that giant rabbit breeds of necessity require heavier bone. They also require a bit more cage space, as well as feed.
We excluded the other 3 giant breeds from this discussion for these reasons:
But then again, a rabbit is a rabbit...
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