You *can* eat any breed of rabbit. But some of them have been bred to convert food to meat faster than others. If you just want efficiency, go for a meat breed. Below are the top 10 best meat rabbit breeds for growth and production.
When choosing the best meat rabbit for your situation there are a few things you need to consider.
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WARNING: This article discusses choosing a rabbit breed to raise for human consumption. If this topic disturbs you, please do not proceed.
Choosing the right breed of meat rabbit for your situation can be very confusing. There are so many meat breeds of rabbits available, and everyone has their own preference.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Meat Rabbit Breed
As we are looking at harvesting between 8-14 weeks old, all the giant breeds have a similar amount of meat on the as the medium sized breeds.
However, they do consume a little more food to get there, so they may not be worth the extra expense in feed to get the same amount of meat at the end.
If you are raising ‘meat mutts’ which are a crossbred mixture, a few giant genes in the mix can be helpful. There are several other things you can do to ensure your rabbits reach their potential size.
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Considerations when you are Choosing Meat Rabbits
If you are wanting to use the skins as well you can use rabbits that grow slower. To get good strong usable pelts they rabbits need to be closer to 24-28 weeks old, so you will no longer have ‘fryer’ rabbits, you will have ‘roasters’.
They aren’t as tender and need to be cooked longer. But the pelts of fryer rabbits are very soft and tear easily. So you do need to decide your priorities.
There is, however, no rule saying you have to do one and not the other. You can, of course, do some young ones and keep your fave pelts to grow out the the roaster stage.
Of course, a roaster rabbit will need more room and more food than a fryer rabbit too.
If you are wanting fast meat production to be your main aim then New Zealand Whites or Californians are the best meat rabbit breeds, they are efficient breeders, good mums and fast growers.
If you want to do pelts then the Rex is the gold standard, their pelts are in demand for fashion and craft and they come in wonderful colors.
Top 10 Best Meat Rabbit Breeds
1. NZ WHITE
The NZ white is hands down the fastest grower and most efficient meat rabbit breed to grow.
Despite the name, this breed is American in origin Large in size. These are healthy, hearty, high production rabbits. They put on weight quickly with a good meat to bone ratio. The full grown doe will be about 9-12 lbs while the buck will be 8-10 lbs (4-5.5kg.).
Short coated and mainly bred for pelts and meat. Sentinel rabbit for laboratories.
Does can be aggressive, but we never had any issues with ours.
The Californian was originally created by crossing the New Zealand with a Chinchilla and Himalayan. The Cali has a white body with black points on the ears, nose and feet.
A dual purpose meat and fur rabbit, the Californian is a bit smaller than the New Zealand at 8-10 lbs.
Considered a rare breed in NZ and the breeding pool is getting limited. 3.5-5.5kg
Does are generally gentle and great mothers.
3. FLEMISH GIANT
The largest breed in NZ. Short coated and mainly bred for pets. Can be bred for meat and pelts. An adult will take a lot more food than a smaller rabbit to maintain and the fryers weigh about the same as a smaller breed rabbit at 8-10 weeks.
A great animal to cross into a line to add size and vigor. Comes in a range of colours. Flemish/NZ White cross or Flemish/Californian make great meat babies. 5-6.5kg
Generally friendly and make great pets.
4. STANDARD REX
Medium in size. Short coated and mainly bred for pelts. Fur is soft and luxurious, a lot like velvet. Kept for fur and the meat is a byproduct.
Medium in size, but in a good line the kits will grow fast. You won’t get the same meat production as a NZ white, but they pelts are AMAZING, and they make great pets on the pet market. 2.8-3.5kg
The Cinnamon has been bred from the Chinchilla, New Zealand, Checkered Giant and Californian and has been an officially recognized breed since the 1970s.
Cinnamon rabbits are rusty colored with dark points. The Cinnamon is another breed that has been used as pet as was as for meat and fur however meat production was the original intent for this breed.
This is a large breed that reaches weights between 8.5 and 11 lbs. They can be very difficult to find.
6. GIANT CHINCHILLA
There are very few of these left in NZ, you will never see them up for sale however they are more available elsewhere in the world.
Large in size. Short coated and mainly bred for pelts and meat. Heavy bone structure, and kits tend to grow bone before meating out, but useful as a cross in a meat-mutt breeding program. 6-6.5kg. Make great pets.
7. STANDARD CHINCHILLA
Medium in size. Short coated and mainly bred for pelts and pets, meat is a bi-product. 2.5-3.5kg
Medium in size, the satins are often used as meat rabbits because their babies still grow fast. Short coated and mainly bred for pelts or the pet market. Their pelts are super shiny due to hollow hair sheaths, they reflect light and almost seem to glow. 2.8-3.5kg.
9 CHAMPAGNE D ARGENT
The Champagne D Argent is one of the oldest rabbit breeds on record, with its history dating way back to the 17th century.
These beautiful rabbits have been raised for both fur and meat. They have a very good meat to bone ratio.
Generally they are docile and good mothers.
10. FLORIDA WHITE
The Florida White was developed in the 1960’s as an “all” purpose breed.
While they are quite a bit smaller than most traditional meat rabbit lines, they can be brilliant for those raising for meat for only 1 or 2 people or with very limited space.
An adult Florida White will get to 6- 8 lbs with a light bone structure that offers an awesome bone to meat ratio.
They are calm and gentle and are great for beginning rabbit raisers, especially if younger children want to be involved.
There are also what are known as “meat mutts” which are a mixture of breeds, simply a person’s best producing meat stock crossed in together. You can buy from someone’s established meat mutt line and get some very productive rabbits.
Cross breed your own
One upside to mixed breeding is what is known as “hybrid vigor” which is the tendency of a cross-bred individual to show qualities superior to those of both parents. They tend to be hardier and benefit from the good qualities of both parents.
If you are interested in pelts as well, any medium/large sized breed works well. Giant breeds like the English Lop, Giant Chinchilla, and Flemish Giant all grow their bone structure before they fill out, so while they are big animals, they are not efficient meat producers.
What rabbit breed you choose to use is up to you, and may be dependent on personal choice, what is available to you and what your goals are.
To find out what meat breeds are available to you in your area I suggest joining a meat rabbit group on Facebook like Meat Rabbits in Colonies or Commercial Rabbits NZ.
Be warned, pet breeders/owners can get twitchy if you go in asking if you can eat their bunnies!
What Rabbits are Available in NZ
In NZ our choices for meat rabbits are somewhat limited as they simply are not available here. What we call Silver Foxes in NZ are not the same as what you may read about on US pages.
We only have NZ Whites, not NZ Reds or NZ Blues like you read about elsewhere. Some breeds like the Californians and Giant Chinchillas are quite difficult to find.
The weights given are the NZ standard, some of them like the Flemish Giant are quite a lot smaller than US rabbits.
The Difference between Cage and Colony Stock
If you are planning on colony raising your rabbits (highly recommended!) I do suggest you try and find a breeder near you that also colony raises.
You can move caged/older rabbits into a colony, but they seldom thrive the same way colony-native bunnies will.
Our rabbits we got from cages, but they were quite young and adaptable when we got them, so they have taken to it with flying colors.
There are some breeders working towards disease resistance in their colonies, so that is another thing to consider.
Rabbits from proven meat lines, with good chunky square form, are more desirable than one that happens to have a pedigree.
For more information about raising meat rabbits have a look at our Ultimate Guide to Raising Meat Rabbits in Colonies Page
What Breeds do you have at your place?
For further reading I would recommend:
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