There are lots of great rabbit breeds and I am sure you will get a number of suggestions for specific breeds. Technically any breed can be used for meat, but the traditional choices have been some of the larger (8-11 pounds at maturity) breeds such as New Zealands, Californians, Champagne D'Argents or som of the giant breeds (12 pounds and up at maturity) such as Flemish Giant or Giant Chinchilla. I'm giving you mature weights, not because you eat them at that weight (most people aim for meat rabbits to be about 5 pounds at 2-3 months) but because weight at maturity has some bearing on how rabbits are classified at ARBA shows and generally what purpose they had when originated. Body type, growth rate, and productivity (how many kits the does can raise per litter and how many litters per year) are key factors for meat breed selections.
I'm going to recommend my favorite breed, Satins, which are in the New Zealand category of size and body type but have a gorgeous shiny coat (sheen) and come in multiple color varieties beyond the standard white meat rabbit norm.
The website is www.asrba.org. There isn't much practical info about rabbit raising on that website but at least you can find descriptions of the breed, some nice photos of different colors, and a list of some breeders across the country.
I raised them for years indoors in cages with very good luck
Considering you're raising them indoors, I might go with Florida Whites (4-6lbs mature weight)or Dutch (4.5-5.5 mature weight) I'm not quite sure about the weights of these breeds, but I'm pretty sure that's the mature weight. These are both smaller than the typical meat rabbit choice, but can still yield a fair amount of meat at butchering age. Rexes (6-8lbs) are my personal fave, they are a medium sized breed, have velvety fur, and great personalities, also if your into tanning hides, you can use the fur to make things like pillow covers or something. Or you can get typical meat rabbits like New Zealand Whites, Champagne d'Argents (these have darker and more gamey meat), and Californians, although they taker up more space, eat more food, etc and I think they're a hassle to raise in a house or garage.
Thanks for all the good choices. I have a question though, the slughtering weight is usually more then the butchered weight, right, so how many pounds do you usually lose during butchering? If I get a rexes and it gets up to seven pounds, will I come away with around four pounds of meat after slaughter?
Well, 7lbs is a large adult, and unless its for stew, I wouldn't slaughter an adult. I'm not quite sure how many lbs you lose, I don't usually weigh lol. A Rex at 12 weeks might be about 4lbs (I'm just guessing, you would be better looking on google), and dressed might be 2.5lbs-3lbs? I give organs to my dog, so the only thing I throw away is intestines and bladder pretty much. I heard somewhere that a 5lbs rabbit dressed would weigh around 3.5 lbs, again, looking on google would be better than me, since I'm just guessing here.
Dressout weights depend on a lot of things... such as heredity and management, in particular. A Rex fryer weighing 4 lbs. live weight at 12 weeks may be from a strain that grows slow or are just small. Rex are a recognized meat rabbit and should reach 5 lbs. by 12 weeks at the most. You can learn a lot more about the meat breeds in the Meat Rabbits category by visiting the sticky "Commercial Rabbit Industries" on this web site.
Rabbits butcher at somewhere around 40-60% of their live weight and it depends on breed and the individual lines. Some breeds that are mostly bred for show and pet have lines that aren't as useful for meat so finding someone that breeds for meat instead of just looks and theory is beneficial irregardless of the breed. Theoretically the standard used to judge at rabbit shows should provide a good meat rabbit for those breeds with that body type or original purpose but practically this is not always true for not just rabbits but any animal.
What size rabbits do you want or what litter sizes can you handle? Dutch would be a bit smaller but were still developed as a meat rabbit so they could fit a small indoor operation better. New Zealand and California are the usual breeds which have been bred the most for large litter size and fast weight gain. Then there are a ton of other commercial breeds in a similar size range which generally have slightly smaller litters and may not have been bred so strictly for their growth speed but make fine meat rabbits in a home setting. You can find listings of all the rabbit breeds in many places online and anything that falls under the commercial body type could work.
Giant breeds are usually not used as meat rabbits because they have denser bones which leads to less meat for a given size and they tend to grow slowly. It takes more feed and space for the same amount of meat. Sometimes they are crossed in to other commercial breeds being used for meat to gain a little size but for the most part you want to avoid any breed with the word giant unless you have a specific use in mind. We added some half checkered giants recently because even if they do result in a lower meat to bone ratio many of our rabbits are for the purpose of feeding our dogs a healthy raw diet and thicker bone is beneficial to their jaw strength and the mental impact of taking apart whole prey. More calcium is also good for cats if we ever get a meat grinder. For our own purposes these rabbits may or may not be as useful as our champagne and creme d'argent.
We also have some creme d'argent x mini rex that we kept the best buck and doe from because we found the extra mini rex we occasionally slaughtered had good meat to bone ratio resulting in more meat for a smaller rabbit and they reached maturity really quickly. While it brought the rabbits down to 6-8lbs full adult size instead of 8-10lbs we haven't lost much on the 3month olds we butcher and we have some mini rex pelts waiting to be tanned.
Stick to the breeds that are known for meat production, while all rabbits are made of meat growth rates vary greatly and you want to feed them less for a shorter time and get the most meat possible. You could get Cals and New Zealands, thats supposed to be a really good cross, or you can can cross any breeds and will get hybrid vigor in that first cross, that means bigger faster growing kits. If you want to stick with the smaller breeds try Dutch or Florida Whites, I have FW's, they are very thrifty, growth rates are excellant, dress out percentage is very good. I also have Standard Chins, like them, have not butchered any yet, but litters look good, mid size rabbits, decent growth rates, pretty thrifty too. Thrifty is important to me, I want the most bang for my buck, once Florida Whites put on weight it stays there, their like little meat bricks. But seriously you can eat any rabbit, we have butchered older Silvers and Thriantas, they make great barbeque, and the dogs sure like them. Still, try to get good healthy stock from someone who knows what their doing and breeds for good meat qualities, doesn't hurt to stack the deck in your favor.
"I dont know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." Bilbo Baggins
The rabbits I use for my farm market sales are New Zealand French angora crosses. My FA consistantly reach 4# at 60 days, and have large litters. I have some NZR/FA cross does, and use a FA buck on them. I butcher at 5#, and get 2.75-3# whole rabbits. The meat is a lovely pale pink, and lots of it.