When choosing a rabbit breed for meat production, there are several factors to consider, like the meat-to-bone ratio, how fast they grow, and how many babies they produce. For example, different rabbit breeds might have better meat-to-bone ratios but take longer to grow than others. Therefore, choosing the right breed is one of the essential parts of breeding rabbits for meat.
The most popular breeds for meat include the New Zealand rabbit, Californian rabbit, Rex rabbit, and Florida White rabbit. Each of these breeds has unique characteristics and is well-suited for meat production due to their size, meat-to-bone ratio, and litter size.
Ultimately, the best rabbit breed for meat production will depend on your personal preferences and goals as a breeder. So please look at the few rabbit breeds we have listed below to help you choose your breeding journey.
What Makes A Rabbit Good For Meat Breeding?
When looking for a meat rabbit, it is essential to know what you are looking for in a rabbit. A few factors to consider when you want to find a breed perfect for meat. The critical part is meat to bone ratio and how fast they grow.
A rabbit with a good pelt can be a bonus, but it is not required if you are only interested in the meat. The coat of a 10-12 week old kit will not be suited for the fur market.
When dealing with a small animal like a rabbit, you must consider the amount of meat available. You want the rabbit to have an equal amount of meat-to-bone ratio for it to be worth your time and money.
The rabbits’ parents are almost as important as the meat-to-bone ratio because their genes influence how many kits are born at a time and how big they grow.
The ideal pair would be a fertile buck with 1 or 2 does that produce many kits and looks after the kits properly. Unfortunately, mothers sometimes eat their kits after birth, which is a bad thing for obvious reasons. Therefore, finding the perfect pair is essential for the best meat yield.
Because each rabbit breed is unique in some way, various breeds naturally appeal to different people (for example, homesteaders and rabbit specialists). Choose a breed that produces a lot of babies and matures fast if you want to raise rabbits for meat.
Choosing a breed that produces a lot of babies per litter will allow you to get more meat from one mating pair. Getting a breed that grows fast will allow you to butcher the rabbits and start the process faster than slow-growing breeds resulting in more meat.
New Zealand Rabbits Are The Most Common Breed For Meat
The New Zealand rabbit, despite its name, is a domesticated species that originated in the United States. However, this rabbit breed originated in California, and its ancestors were most likely imported from New Zealand.
The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) classifies New Zealand rabbits into five colors: white, red, black, blue, and broken. Breeding different breeds together can produce a wide range of new forms, from chestnut agouti to gold-tipped steel.
Female rabbits (Doe) are larger than males (Buck), weighing an average of 12 pounds. New Zealand rabbits are bred for various purposes like meat, pelts, and shows. While some people keep them as pets, most breeders use them for meat supply.
Californian Rabbits Are The Second Most Used Breed For Meat
This standard breed weighs between 8 to 12 pounds and is the second most popular breed to raise for meat. Beginning in 1923, George S. West of Lynwood, California, developed domestic rabbits of the Californian breed for use in the fur and meat industries.
George kept a “nest” group of rabbits) of New Zealand White rabbits, from which he started breeding with Standard Chinchilla rabbits (for their dense coat) and Himalayan rabbits (for their markings) to create a breed with thick coats and distinct markings. His new breed was first shown in 1928, and by 1939, the American Rabbit Breeders Association had approved a standard.
Rex Rabbit For Meat
Regarding raising rabbits for meat, the Rex breed is second only to New Zealand in popularity. Any major city in the United States will have Rex rabbits for sale.
It is a highly sought-after commodity due to its velvety pelt and high meat-to-bone ratio. This breed typically weighs between 7 and 11 pounds and has a litter size that ranges from 6 to 12 kits.
The Rex rabbit has a larger head, ears that stand more erectly, and smaller feet than other rabbit breeds. Like most larger breeds, the female (also known as a doe) has a large skin flap that hangs under the chin called a dewlap. The Rex rabbit takes longer to reach the right age for slaughter than the New Zealand rabbit.
Florida White Rabbits For Meat
Florida White rabbits are small for a meat rabbit, weighing only 4 to 6 pounds, but they have one of the best meat-to-bone ratios of any breed. Even tho they have an excellent meat-to-bone ratio, the amount of meat you will get from them is minimal compared to other breeds.
This breed is well-known for its hardiness and has a low susceptibility to illness in general. A litter size can range between 5 to 8 kits.
The Florida White rabbit was developed in response to a demand for a smaller laboratory rabbit. It has since proven to be an excellent choice for the modern home breeder looking for a small meat rabbit with high production and an excellent dress-out ratio.
Flemish Giants For Meat
The Flemish Giant is the largest domestic rabbit breed in the United States. Their popularity as pets is because of their calm demeanor and lack of anxiety when handled. Their weight ranges from 9 to 15 pounds.
While Flemish Giants can be used for meat production, they are usually crossed with New Zealand Whites or Californians due to their heavy bone structure. A rabbit bred for meat has an average mature weight of around 12 pounds. However, rabbits bred with Flemish Giants may grow slightly heavier.
A Flemish Giant rabbit’s back arches like a mandolin behind its shoulders and continues down to the base of its tail. The body of the Flemish Giant Rabbit is long and powerful, with broad hindquarters and a glossy and dense coat of fur.
Giant Chinchilla Rabbit For Meat
Giant Chinchilla bucks weigh around 12-15 pounds, while does weigh about 13-16 pounds. An animal’s most important characteristics for the judging table are its ability to produce meat. Young Giant Chinchillas mature quickly, gaining 5–6 pounds by 8 weeks and 7–9 pounds by 12 weeks.
A fully mature buck should weigh at least 12 pounds, while a fully mature doe should be 1-2 pounds heavier. The Giant Chinchilla’s short, straight, and silky fur rarely requires grooming.
American Chinchilla Rabbits For Meat
U.S. chinchillas weigh between 9 and 12 pounds, have a high meat-to-bone ratio, and are known for their friendliness and gentle demeanor. In addition, they are excellent mothers, sometimes producing between 8 and 12 kits per litter.
Like the Flemish Giants, this breed is frequently cross-bred with other breeds like the Harlequin, Silver Fox, and Rex. The fur from these animals is highly sought after because it can be made into various items, including rugs, gloves, and coats. However, despite the similarity in name, these animals cannot mate with chinchillas, nor are they related in any way.
Standard Chinchilla Rabbits For Meat
The Standard Chinchilla is the smallest breed of Chinchilla, weighing only 5 to 7 pounds. This breed is desirable due to its high fur quality, and its small size makes it ideal for apartment dwellers. The average number of kits born per litter is around 5. Despite their small size, the bone-to-meat ratio is relatively high, but the meat you will get out at the end is much less than from other breeds.
Cinnamon Rabbits For Meat
Cinnamon rabbits were created by crossing the New Zealand White and the American Chinchilla. Their overall health is excellent, and they have fewer issues than other breeds. Cinnamon rabbit litters typically have 4 and 6 kits, and adults weigh between 8 and 11 pounds on average.
Beautiful fur from these animals can be used to line hats and gloves. Rabbits tend to be bred for one of four things: meat, fur, show, or pet use. The Cinnamon rabbit is called the “All-Purpose Rabbit” because it fulfills all four purposes.
Harlequin Rabbits For Meat
The Harlequin rabbit is a heritage breed that fed many families across America during World War II.
The Japanese Harlequin and the Magpie Harlequin are subspecies of the same species that are both stunning. Japanese Harlequin rabbits usually have orange fur with black, blue, chocolate, or lilac markings.
On the other hand, Magpie Harlequin rabbits can have black, blue, chocolate, or lilac fur instead of orange. They typically weigh between 6 to 9 pounds. As with most other rabbit species, females are larger than males. The Harlequin rabbit is another breed that has a fast growth time and is ready to be butchered as early as 8 to 10 weeks.
Frequently Asked Questions
Knowing which rabbit breed to start with is only one piece of the meat breeding puzzle. Here are some Frequently asked questions about raising rabbits for meat.
Can Any Rabbit Be A Meat Rabbit?
A common misconception is that any rabbit breed can be slaughtered for meat. While technically correct, not all rabbit breeds are ideal for this application. Because of the animal’s bony structure, choosing a breed of rabbit that can still produce a significant amount of meat despite its small stature is critical.
Is It Worth Raising Rabbits For Meat?
Rabbits are a great way to generate a steady source of meat for you and your family. Rabbits have a faster growth time than many other animals and produce a large litter every 12 weeks. The average growth time for rabbits is around 10 to 12 weeks, but some breeds have a growth time of about 8 weeks.
A set of 2 does and a buck can produce over 600 pounds of meat in a year, whereas a year-old beef steer provides around 400 pounds. There are different ways you can utilize two does with one buck to produce more meat.
For example, you can breed them simultaneously to get 2 sets of kits simultaneously. Or alternatively, you can breed them in turns. That way, you can get meat more frequently but in smaller quantities.
At What Age Do You Butcher Rabbits?
Kits can be slaughtered when they reach the age of 10 to 12 weeks. However, because feed to meat conversion ratio increases after 10-12 weeks, it becomes less cost-effective to keep them growing. In addition to the cost increase, the rabbit’s meat also becomes tougher the older it gets.
What Are The Two Most Efficient Meat Rabbit Breeds?
Most people agree that the New Zealand White is the best breed for raising rabbits for meat consumption. This is because they can weigh 9-12 pounds when fully grown. In addition, it is common for some New Zealand rabbits to be ready for harvest sooner than most, reaching 8 pounds in only 8 weeks.
Therefore, they are widely regarded as the ideal rabbit breed for meat production due to their rapid growth. Californians, another popular breed, cross between New Zealand and American Chinchilla Rabbits. They also age relatively fast, reaching 8-12 pounds in 12 weeks.
Is Rabbit Meat Healthier Than Beef?
So, what is the human population’s reason for eating rabbit meat? Rabbit is one of the healthiest meats on the market and one of the leanest and greenest. Compared to beef, pork, lamb, turkey, veal, and chicken, a rabbit has the highest protein percentage, the lowest fat, and the fewest calories per pound. The meat tastes like chicken but is heartier, meatier, and earthier; it can be prepared similarly to chicken.
How Often Can You Breed Rabbits?
After giving birth, the doe can become pregnant again. Most rabbit breeders rebreed their rabbits 35 to 42 days after the doe gives birth. The average pregnancy lasts between 28 to 32 days. During the first 6 to 8 weeks, the kits will nurse, during which they are also taught how to eat.
When the kits are past the nursing stage, they are moved to another hutch or two until they are consumed. Rabbits usually reach maturity at around ten or twelve weeks old, depending on the breed and genetics.
There are numerous factors to consider before choosing a rabbit breed for meat production. Follow the advice in this article, and you’ll be able to choose a rabbit breed that will help your breeding operation succeed and be suitable for meat production.