First of all, I want to start by saying all rabbits are meat regardless of size. Some just provide more than others.
I decided to write about this subject after hearing so many stories of newbies buying un-pedigreed rabbits that don't produce, stay very small and have poor attitudes
When first getting in to rabbits most of what you are told is get New Zealand's and Californians. These are great commercial rabbits they breed and grow fast. As a back yard breeder you don't really need to have a rabbit that gets to 5 pounds in 8 weeks. Getting there at 10-12 weeks is not much more feed. Also, there are very,very few breeders of quality New Zealand stock in Arizona.
What is quality New Zealand stock.
"The ideal type should create an impression of balance and uniformity in the mind. The animal must exemplify meat producing qualities. It is to have well rounded hips, well filled loin and ribs carrying forward to combine with shoulders that balance the rest of the body" (taken from the New Zealand standard of perfection).
Often newbies to meat rabbit raising are told you don't need a pedigree to raise good meat rabbits. That is true, however, without a pedigree how do you know the rabbits genetic history. Oh yes pedigrees can be forged. Most reputable breeders would not do this.
My first experience in rabbit raising was just that I was desperate to get started so I bought some "purebred" New . Zealand's from a local breeder. They were not white and they never got bigger than 7 pounds. New Zealands should weigh 9-11 pounds for bucks and 10-12 pounds for does. Also this breeder sold me an unrelated breeding pair but she could not really tell me who the parents were for sure. The doe had a weird Litter the first time. Rat faces funky bodies They were fine for meat but I butchered the whole line and started over with a recognized pedigreed breed. I looked for good New Zealand stock all over and then decided to try other meat breeds.
We have settled on Satins I have white, Chinchilla and Siamese varieties. We also just got our first Cinnamon. All of our rabbits are very productive. Does have an average of 8=10 kits.
Another thing you may be told is show rabbits and meat rabbits are different body types. This is wrong and I truly believe that this is really just a way to sell rabbits of questionable quality. If you breed to the standard of perfection for whatever breed you choose you will get good meaty rabbits. Again any rabbit is meat but you want to produce a good meaty rabbit that will provide a lot of meat for your feed money.
I am currently breeding Satin Rabbits and they reach 5 pounds at about 9-10 weeks. I also have a few good New Zealand/Satin Cross rabbits I breed strictly for meat for our table they are of excellent quality and conform to the New Zealand standard of perfection
A 4-h kid that purchased one of my Chinchilla pedigreed Satins for fair, won Grand champion meat rabbit with it at the LaPaz county fair this last spring she got 1500.00 yes that's fifteen hundred dollars @ auction. This was a "show/meat Rabbit" rabbit with a pedigree. There is another 4hr in our club that takes his Satins and Cinnamons to fair and beats the new Zealand's and other meat rabbits.
Now, a pedigreed quality breeding rabbit is going to cost you more than the non-pedigreed "meat Rabbit" off of craigslist or from a "meat rabbit breeder". There are good breeders of non-pedigreed rabbits out there they keep good records etc. But Really do your research don't rush. Find out what a good meat rabbit should look and feel like. There are rabbits shows in phoenix almost every month. All breeds are shown including New Zealand and Californians. Most breeders are more than happy to tell you anything you want to know about breeding rabbits. One more word of warning Even breeders that sell purebred pedigreed rabbits can have poor stock. Shop around get to know what's what and read Storeys guide to raising rabbits.
There is no one right way to raise rabbits. But starting with the best possible stock will make your project much more successful.
If you want to get to quality breeders go to the Arizona Rabbit and Cavy Breeders Association. Come to a show where you can talk to breeders and judges.
My primary reason for getting into rabbits was to raise some of my own meat for myself and family. Now I do both and really I have a great hobby that feeds us.
Also there are many other great meat breeds out there
Florida Whites (smaller rabbit but excellent meat to bone ratio)
Silver Martens (smaller rabbit but excellent meat to bone ratio)
There are Breeders for all of these here in the state of Arizona
Finally, If you are not sure feel free to send me a message and ask. I would even be happy to evaluate a rabbit for you if you are thinking of purchasing, free of charge.
another great place is the backyard meat rabbits facebook page