Two aspects of common small-scale rabbit operations have kept me from seriously considering keeping them for meat: the prison model (each adult rabbit in his or her own tiny cage, allowed each other's company only to mate) and the importation of alfalfa pellets or hay as feed. I dislike having to buy in feed for our animals, as I'm a cheapskate by nature, and I don't know any easy efficient ways to close the nutrient loop to make the importation of such resources sustainable. We get around that problem with our chickens by only feeding them waste products from civilization--excess bread donated by the bakery down the street, and produce scraps from the local food co-op. But I don't know of any waste streams to tap for protein-rich rabbit food, and I can't even come up with a good model to have the rabbits free-range for some of their own food.
I assume I don't have to go into any detail about why the one-rabbit-per-cage model turns me off. I don't visit commercial animal prisons (AKA "zoos") and I don't intend to start one in our yard.
Many months ago I stumbled across this article (PDF) that changed my perception of the food supply for domesticated rabbits. Basically, researchers fed Soviet Chinchilla rabbits nothing but black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) leaves at a rate of about 14 ounces per rabbit per day for 56 days, and the rabbits not only didn't die, but actually gained an average 10.4 grams per rabbit per day!
Black locusts grow like weeds in our yard. We have an existing hedgerow of them which we plan to coppice for rot-resistant lumber and for firewood. Now when I look up into those trees, instead of leaves I see rabbits all over the branches! The locusts also grow like weeds through the rest of the yard, popping up all over the place and needing the occasional cutting or yanking. Definitely a low-maintenance supply of leaves! Obviously we wouldn't want to feed the rabbits 100% black locust, but it could probably form the backbone of their food supply. We can supplement by growing some alfalfa (we have some growing already for the chickens, but they don't touch the stuff?!), comfrey (I haven't read it yet, but the freely downloadable book Russian Comfrey by Lawrence Hills goes into great detail on its use as animal fodder), the nitrogen-fixing tiny floating aquatic plant azolla,and possibly Paulownia tree leaves (supposed to be good fodder for rabbits, chickens, and other livestock--though again our chickens haven't taken to them in my couple of tries to feed it to them.) And of course miscellaneous excess greens from our garden or trimmings from veggies could go to the rabbits.
This method will take a bit of time per day to cut the fresh material and take it to the rabbits, but as long as enough black locust trees are managed properly in rotation, it should provide fairly efficient ongoing leaf cuts, while also providing firewood a bit at a time.
Inspired by this new information on rabbit feed possibilities, I did some research into alternatives to the prison model, and quickly found a few references to keeping rabbits in colonies. I haven't researched enough to really say much about it, or even to provide links to the best sources, so just search for yourself if curious. Basically you just have to provide a predator-proof fenced area over soil, or a decent sized building with plenty of straw, and the does will create their own burrows and set things up how they like. You can provide nest boxes, which the does may or may not use. Some people successfully allow their buck to live full-time with the does; others find that the buck over-breeds the does, not allowing them any down-time between litters to recover from the last batch. Of course you still have to provide food and water, but you can do so for the whole colony at once instead of having to put food into individual cages or buy expensive automatic systems.
My first thought for our yard was that we could keep a rabbit colony on our garage roof, which has convenient access to overhanging black locusts. We could also provide a ramp to the ecoroof over the sunspace, and occasionally allow the rabbits up onto the roof to graze. Just an idea for now; we'll see if and when I have time to pursue this further! (Our highest priority homestead expansion right now is to add ducks; the slug populations have exploded this year and made it nearly impossible for us to grow any annual veggies. Good thing we hardly bother with them anyway, but still...)