When I was seven years old, my neighbor taught me how to dispatch and clean a rabbit, within three minutes, with nothing but his hands and a garden hose for rinsing. Within five minutes, he took the rabbit inside to cook, and his coondogs relished the entrails.
So, now that you know a little about where I come from, let’s talk about raising rabbits as a sustainable food source and as a side hustle to generate money for your homestead. And let’s review several vital facts about some of the best meat rabbit breeds.
Ten minutes from now, you’ll look at rabbits differently, and you’ll understand why some breeds are better suited for raising for meat than others, which are the easiest to care for, which taste the best, and how much usable meat you can expect from each breed after dressing them out.
Okay. Let’s get hoppin’!
- The Truth About Raising Rabbits for Meat
- Wise Reasons to Raise Meat Rabbits
- Tips for Humanely Dispatching Rabbits
- 10 of the Best Rabbit Breeds to Raise for Meat and Money
- Time to Rabbit Up!
The Truth About Raising Rabbits for Meat
I’ve known many homesteaders who consider rabbit a type of food reserved for special meals and believe it’s only to be prepared by trained culinary experts.
And rabbits are delicious, but it doesn’t have to be something you only eat on a blue moon. Nearly everything in nature eats rabbits, including me!
Sure, I understand. Rabbits have square teeth and are defenseless creatures that don’t hurt anything or anyone. Yes, they are innocent.
My point is that when you raise meat animals to sustain your family, emotions like fuzzy feelings attached to the cuteness of rabbits have to go out the door.
My kids love to play with rabbits. And they also like to eat them. My children understand that rabbits are our food, just like other meat-producing animals.
So, if you want to raise rabbits for meat, understand up-front that butchering is required. There’s not one fiber of my being that enjoys killing anything, even a housefly.
And I love eating plants and all of the health benefits that they provide. However, I have these canine teeth in my mouth, as we all do, and, at least in my case, that means I’m well-suited by nature to eat some meat in my diet.
And rabbit sure is delightful!
Now – before we get into 10 of the best meat rabbit breeds, let’s quickly review the advantages of raising these cute, flavorsome beasts!
Wise Reasons to Raise Meat Rabbits
The rabbits I raise never get poisoned with steroids, pesticides/herbicides, vaccines, and other toxins like the mass meat supply is. That’s the most notable benefit of raising meat rabbits, in my opinion – what we eat matters! And our food should be clean and healthy, not dirty and deadly!
Plus. There are various other good reasons to raise rabbits on your homestead, including:
- Relative to other meat-producing animals, rabbits are easy, cheap, and fast to raise
- Hay and feed pellets for rabbits are inexpensive, plus they can eat vegetable scraps
- Most meat rabbit breeds can get harvested in as little as eight weeks of age
Rabbits are not closely regulated in most areas of the US, making a backyard or homestead rabbit farming business a viable idea for many people.
Also, you can earn a decent chunk of change annually by selling rabbit meat, pelts, and manure. On average, rabbit meat sells for about $9 per pound, pelts start at about $20 per, and a 5-gallon bucket of manure can bring in about $10.
Tips for Humanely Dispatching Rabbits
To me – just like with fishing and hunting, it’s vital to (personally) dispatch the animals that I will feed my family. And, of course, I do not want to make anything suffer, so it’s critical to have an efficient method for killing and butchering these gifts from nature.
While we’re on this topic, I’ll point out that, in my opinion, if everyone had to dispatch each animal their family ate, there would be much less cruelty, obesity, and poor health in our global society.
That’s my belief anyway, and I think it would be tremendously wise for humanity to eliminate mass animal farming operations where the livestock has no quality of life before being ruthlessly executed.
I won’t tell you how my neighbor dispatched the rabbit when I was seven. It wasn’t very kind. Thankfully, culling a rabbit can be a simple, fast process, and the animal feels nothing when you do it properly.
Many people use a section of a broomstick to unexpectedly club a relaxed rabbit at the base of the skull. Other people use a pellet gun from a distance.
And I have heard people talk about the Hopper Popper, stating that it is a fast and humane way to handle this unpleasant task.
The bottom line is that if you live a more self-sufficient lifestyle, you must take responsibility for the foods your family eats for sustenance.
To me, that’s one of the key factors that separate homesteaders from the rest of society: their understanding and acceptance of a more natural way of life.
Okay – meat rabbit breed time!
10 of the Best Rabbit Breeds to Raise for Meat and Money
Raising rabbits is relatively easy – especially compared to other disciplines within animal husbandry. They don’t require much space, are inexpensive to feed, and baby kits grow to ready for processing within about eight weeks, so the entire progression is quick.
Currently, there are more than 300 recognized breeds of domestic rabbits in 70 countries worldwide. Of course, every rabbit breed has unique characteristics. And some are better suited for raising meat production than others.
The best meat rabbit breeds have high meat-to-feed and meat-to-bone ratios and heavier dressed weights. You want a breed that gains weight, is market-ready fast, and resists sickness efficiently.
For your breeding pairs, you want robust bucks that enjoy the girls paired with maternal does to produce large litters. And depending on your goals, you may want a breed that grows high-demand pelts.
Here are ten meat breeds of rabbits renowned for their meat production potential and for being easy to care for, starting with the American Blue.
1. American Blue Rabbits
|A hardy and friendly breed. The does are famous for being good mothers.
|9 to 11 pounds
|10 to 12 pounds
|Multi-purpose – meat and fur.
American Blues (and Whites) are a heritage rabbit breed with very docile temperaments. Homesteaders prize them for their super-soft, gorgeous fur, but they’re also excellent for meat production purposes. Does typically throw between 8-10 kits per litter, and they’re excellently devoted mothers.
This breed of meat rabbit tops out between 9 and 12 pounds. However, their bone-to-meat ratio is not good, much like the Flemish Giant. That’s why many ranchers cross-breed them with more meaty breeds – like Harlequins, Rex rabbits, and Silver Foxes.
2. American Chinchilla Rabbits
|American Chinchilla rabbits have excellent personalities and produce large kit litters. They also mature quickly.
|9 to 11 pounds
|10 to 12 pounds
|Commercial meat farming
Always in high demand and often tricky to find, American Chinchilla rabbits are the most cross-bred domestic rabbit breed worldwide. It’s mainly because of their pelts, which homesteaders prize highly for use in luxury gloves, coats, and rugs. And even the adult bucks have calm temperaments.
They also have excellent bone-to-meat ratios and reach between 10-12 pounds. This heritage breed has quite a docile nature, and both bucks and does are gentle animals. Does make caring mothers, and typically throw between 8-12 kits per litter. That’s a good litter size! And a mighty smooth coat!
3. Californian Rabbits
|Californian rabbits are one of the most famous commercial breeds. They also have excellent meat-to-one ratios.
|8 to 10 pounds
|8 to 10 pounds
|Popular for meat and fur – but they are also kept as pets.
Originally the Californian rabbit breed was a cross between standard Chinchillas and New Zealand Whites. This mixed breed has dominantly white fur with interjected black spots that commonly show on their feet, ears, and noses. Like old-school, laid-back Californians, this hardy meat rabbit breed is chill, and their nature is super-friendly.
They’re slightly smaller than the typical New Zealand White, commonly reaching mature weights between 8-10 pounds. You can count on this breed for high-quality meat and desirable pelts that are typically ready for processing within 2-3 months of age.
4. Champagne D’Argent Rabbits
|Champagne D’Argent rabbits are fancy and eloquent. They have docile and friendly temperaments.
|9 to 10 pounds
|9.5 to 12 pounds
|Many homesteaders keep them as pets or as show animals. They’re also excellent meat breeds.
Champagne D’Argent (Silver Champagne) rabbits originated in, you guessed it, France in the early 17th century. They have since been renowned as a hardy breed for meat production and their undeniably attractive silvery fur. This medium-sized breed is known for its genetically meatier midsections than most other breeds.
Plus – they’re significantly fattier than most other breeds, meaning juicier, tastier meat. The original Champagne D’Argent breed works best for homestead meat production – not off-breeds of the original like Noirs, Cremes, Bruns, and Blues.
5. Flemish Giant Rabbits
|Flemish Giant rabbits are easily the heftiest domestic rabbit breed. They’re surprisingly docile, considering their commanding size.
|About 15 pounds (or higher)
|About 15 pounds (or higher)
|They make excellent meat and fur animals. They also make unique pets.
Flemish Giants are one of the oldest known rabbit breeds. They have been around since at least the 16th century. Most rabbit enthusiasts agree that Flemish Giants are the heaviest rabbit breed worldwide. They’re also known to make good pets for families.
They reach mature weights between 13-22 pounds and lengths up to 4 feet. But beware. You’ll need some BIG rabbit hutches if you raise this breed. One single rabbit is the size of three from most other rabbit breeds for sale!
These giant rabbits have big bones, which decreases their meat-to-bone ratio. Plus, being extra-large, they cost more to raise and require more space. And they grow slowly, even with their voracious appetites. So, don’t rush into raising these heavy hitters. Contemplate raising this sizable variety carefully – because a larger quantity of meat isn’t always better.
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6. Florida White Rabbits
|Florida White rabbits are tiny – and adorable. They’re small. But surprisingly hardy, active, and alert.
|4 to 6 pounds
|4 to 6 pounds
|Florida White rabbits make adorable pets. They’re also good meat animals. They are tiny but have an excellent dress-out ratio suitable for meat ranching.
If you have limited space for your rabbitry, consider raising some Florida Whites, a breed initially developed during the 1960s. These rabbits weigh between 4-6 pounds, making them significantly smaller than other meat breeds. However, they have a superb meat-to-bone ratio, sometimes as high as 65%.
Although primarily regarded as a meat breed, Florida Whites also develop attractive, valuable fur that can quickly sell for extra income. They also have pleasant personalities and make an excellent choice for newbies in the rabbit husbandry arena. They’re perfect for teaching young homesteaders how to operate rabbit farms and how to take care of animals in general.
7. Harlequin Rabbits
|Harlequin rabbits are fancy and colorful. They’re famously intelligent and playful.
|6 to 9 pounds
|6 to 9.5 pounds
|Harlequins were once famous meat animals. But recently, they have gained a reputation as excellent show animals and lovely-looking pets.
Ooh-La-La! The French Harlequin rabbit, such a fancy breed, was first bred in the 1880s by crossing a Tortoiseshell Dutch with a wild rabbit. After their introduction to the world at a Paris exhibit in 1887, this now-common breed got exported to England – and the rest of the world soon followed. Harlequins remain a popular choice among global rabbit breeders today.
Homesteaders love this friendly breed for its docile temperaments and outright cuteness. They make excellent pet rabbits – and their lean meat is also delicious! On the downside of choosing this medium-sized rabbit breed for meat production, the average litter size is only 5-6 kits, which isn’t a fabulous reproductive rate. Plus, this breed ranges in a small size compared to some other meat breeds, commonly weighing only between 6-9 pounds.
8. New Zealand White Rabbits
|New Zealand White rabbits have broad, robust bodies and thick bunny feet. Their ears are also wide and upright.
|9 to 11 pounds
|10 to 12 pounds
|New Zealand White rabbits make delicious roasters and fryers. The fur industry loves their white fur that is easy to dye and stylize.
With its medium-sized body and soft coat, the New Zealand White rabbit breed has won more American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) Best in Show titles than any other breed. Why New Zealand? Who knows? The breed originated in the good ol’ USA in 1916.
This popular meat rabbit breed is still known for its rapid growth, deliciousness, and excellent-quality solid white fur. These quiet, tame rabbits top out in adult weight between 9-12 pounds, making them a heftier commercial breed than most other food rabbits and a savvy choice for meat production.
9. Rex Rabbits
|Rex rabbits have curled whiskers, thick fur coats, and round bodies. They also have excellent temperaments.
|Around 7 to 9.5 pounds
|Around 8 to 10.5 pounds
|Rex rabbits are popular pets. Their lean meat also tastes delicious – making them a popular meat breed.
Rex rabbits are mutants! It’s true but in a good way. Rex rabbits have a bizarre genetic mutation that causes their dense pelts to grow short and velvety. My, what a beautiful coat you have!
They are the world’s most-used breed for fur production, and their lean white meat tastes mighty fine too! Many people call Rex the “King of Rabbits,” and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s their adorable fur, appearance, and popularity as media stars. According to the ARBA, this stocky body breed has an average weight of about 10.5 pounds, enough for a fine meal tonight!
10. Silver Fox Rabbits
|Silver Foxes are hefty, friendly, and outgoing rabbits. They have super-thick coats that look silver-grey.
|9 to 11 pounds
|10 to 12 pounds
|They have excellent personalities, which makes them popular as pets – especially with children. They also have lovely fur and meat.
One of the larger varieties, the American Heavyweight Silver rabbit breed, was renamed Silver Fox in 1929. It’s a popular breed due to its white hairs with silver tips that project through its black pelt base. These silver-tipped hairs yield a shimmering, bright appearance to the pelt and are prized worldwide. Excellent meat rabbits, this good-looking breed has a maximum expected weight between 8-12 pounds.
The Rabbit-Raising Problem Solver by Karen Patry is an excellent reference book for any homesteader raising rabbits. The book has an easy-to-grasp Q-and-A style where Karen addresses many questions new rabbit ranchers are soon to face. Topics include bunny housing, breeding, feeding, kindling, health, behavior, and more. The book is suitable for homesteaders raising rabbits for meat, fiber, or as pets.
Time to Rabbit Up!
There’s no doubt that breeding meat rabbits is an excellent, savvy way to increase your family’s capacity to produce its meat. As I said earlier, everything in nature eats rabbits. They’re delicious, healthy, and far easier to hunt and dispatch than a cow, pig, or goat!
And I can tell you from a lot of personal experience that cleaning and butchering a rabbit is much easier than doing the same to a chicken. There’s no need to flash boil and pluck a rabbit like you must with a game bird. Rabbits are easy to clean. And they don’t leave a million feathers all over the yard.
Homesteading is partially about self-sustenance and self-reliance, and meat production, for me anyway, is one of the most trying tasks involved. I don’t enjoy killing anything. But I still fish, hunt, and raise rabbits, pigs, and cattle. You can say that I’m not for the commercial production of meat.
I do this because my family chooses to eat meat. And I believe it is much more environmentally responsible for me to raise my meat animals than to purchase them from a grocery store supplied by a commercial stock farm. I feel that if I choose to eat meat, then I should be the one to ensure that the animal that dies to feed me gets treated humanely.
Anyway, I digress. Thank you for reading along today, and as always, I hope you find value in the information. I wish you only the best of success in your rabbit raising and other homesteading undertakings, and please enjoy the rest of your day!