Guinea pigs: They're what's for dinner?

Consumption of the furry rodents is on the rise in the US, and researchers think they could be a cost-efficient protein source.

By Bruce Kennedy Apr 4, 2013 7:15AM

Guinea pig served fried at a restaurant in Arequipa, Peru (copyright Cute Kitten Images/Flickr Open/Getty Images)
Guinea pigs: lovable starter pets, the next hipster food trend or a sustainable and cost-effective protein source? If you find that sentence confusing, you're not alone.


NPR recently reported that guinea pigs, also known as caveys or cuyes in Spanish, are turning up on the menu in a growing number of U.S. restaurants. As anyone who's watched one of those exotic cooking shows on cable TV will tell you, the rodents have a long history as a food source in South America. But adventurous U.S. diners are now apparently pushing the demand for guinea pigs to new proportions.

 

According to NPR, federal regulatory agencies apparently don't track the import of guinea pig meat into the U.S. -- but one company that deals with the animals says its imports have nearly doubled since 2008.


People in Peru reportedly consume about 65 million guinea pigs a year. The animals are prized there not only for their flavor -- a taste not at all like chicken -- but also for their ability to thrive in small spaces, their quick breeding cycle and their inexpensive diet that includes corn leaves, alfalfa and table scraps.

 

"Even the poorest family can afford to raise guinea pigs," Gloria Palacios, director of a small-livestock farm at La Molina National Agrarian University in Lima, told The Christian Science Monitor in 2006.

 

The animals' efficient use of space and feed have gotten some researchers wondering if guinea pigs could help feed a growing global population that will require new meat sources.

 

Oklahoma native Jason Woods, who works with the humanitarian group Heifer International, tells NPR that guinea pigs are twice as efficient as cattle when it comes to converting their feed into flesh. And a guinea pig "herd" of two males and 20 females, he says, can sustain itself while producing enough meat for six people.

 

Much like their cattle industry counterparts, Peruvian researchers have been experimenting with new diets and breeding techniques to increase the size of the average guinea pig -- from about one-and-a-half pounds to perhaps nearly three pounds of low-cholesterol meat.

 

Of course, potential consumers in the U.S. would have to get past the "ick" factor -- and find ways to explain to their kids why Squeaky's cousin is on the dinner table tonight.

 

And then there's dealing with outrage from devoted guinea pig owners.


"They are such lovely creatures and I can't imagine them being eaten over here, any more than we would eat our cats and dogs," Heather Henshaw, the general secretary of the Northern Cavy Fanciers in the U.K., told The Telegraph several years ago. "It would deeply sadden me to see guinea pigs being served in restaurants. It is difficult to comprehend eating them -- to me they are just wonderful pets."


Disclosure: The author has been ambivalent about guinea pigs since he was 6 years old, when one of them bit a chunk out of his index finger.

 

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40Comments
Apr 4, 2013 9:10AM
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If feral hogs are overrunning parts of this country, can't we eat them ??
Apr 4, 2013 9:14AM
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Before we start with a guinea pig craze, let's go back to eating more traditional meat like rabbit and venison. 
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It's all in what you were raised eating. Parts of the world won't eat beef, where others eat bugs,dog.rat, and cat, (some we keep as pets including cows).

Guinea pig is just another food source. Ask Andrew Zimerran. :)

 

Apr 4, 2013 10:39AM
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I don't see the problem? A lot like eating rabbit. People need to get over themselves and accept that there are just different customs and cultures. Now yes I couldn't see myself eating a dog or a cat (just seems wrong and always heard eating carnivores is not always a good thing, plus dogs at least have a long history of being there for mankind, sorry cat lovers). That and there are other options out there. No need to confine ourselves to only a select few sources. The fact is there are too many people on this planet and we are going to have to continue to look for alternate and more sustainable food sources. If guinea pig meets both demands, great, bring it on. I'd try it. Having a diversified food source is smart and makes sense. Just like a diversified energy portfolio. All are going to be important things for countries and civilization in the future. I'll also go on a side note and say that for those who can learning to be a little more self sufficient (own veggie garden for example) can really go along ways and those are skills our society needs to get back and have a wider group of people who know them like we used to have.

I think its time

Apr 4, 2013 1:28PM
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Give a man a guinea pig and you feed him for a day, give a man two and he eats for life!
Apr 4, 2013 12:04PM
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Forgot Mr Puke
STILL WAITING for an answer from yesterday ?
yo know , how the economy is doing better ?
Conservatives are lying ?
the health care plan WILL NOT increase in cost ?
you make these claims but NEVER , EVER can back them up ?

Tell me again, who is the liar ?

Apr 4, 2013 9:55AM
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A few more years under this administration and we'll all be eating rodents.

Apr 4, 2013 12:37PM
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"I have a great life who`s accomplished a lot, get a nice pension, and made a lot of money becausewe have a president who`s turned the economy around."
LOL
a) Can this cretin put even one sentence together without butchering it ?
b) Made a lot of money - LOL As Limo Pat ? Jeep1985 ? Sargent Frank ? Which fake , created, poster is also rich too?
c) A paid State News poster (MSNBC , NBC, etc) ZERO CREDIBILITY
d) to pimp Obuma 24/7/365 - Can ONLY be a fraud.
e) He/she is too DUMB to have someone pay him/her in a real live job !



Apr 4, 2013 12:58PM
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Puke - Can you at least give me the "facts" ?
I got the names, you've blamed Bush already , again
So that would leave the dreaded R word
But before we get to that can you tell me these "facts" ?
I keep asking and you keep running away
LMFAO @ U cretin !

Apr 4, 2013 6:00PM
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Omg.......... it's still a rat...........  I could see it if someone was starving, but eating one just to eat it....... no thank you, I'll pass...Honestly with wild hogs running around all over the place, it seems like Pork would be a far better, and easier thing to eat...........besides, Guinea pigs are cute..............
Apr 4, 2013 12:01PM
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Quito Arturo - i was just going to say that in Ecuador Guinea pig is considered a delicacy !
I've been there many , many times.
Nice town, nice people.
Been all over Ecuador for sourcing products.
Climbed Cotopaxi (not all the way)

Apr 5, 2013 10:45AM
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So........

 

Do you use a Wet or Dry rub for grilling ?

 

How do they do in a cassarole ?

 

Any guinea Bacon ?

Apr 4, 2013 12:00PM
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Oh Mr. PUKE. How would you actually know what a lie is ?
your whole existence is a lie.
you are not a real poster, we have totally exposed you as a psycho , lefty , paid shill (MSNVC)
You do know , that your 4 different identifies and invented persona's . lives qualifies you as certifiable ?
your credibility is LESS than zero.

Time for new name # 99 !

Apr 4, 2013 12:48PM
Apr 4, 2013 2:27PM
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I'm tired of burgers made from parts of 1000 hormone/antibiotic, corn (not grass) fed cows. 
Where are the recipes?
Apr 7, 2013 10:26PM
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WHEN we get to survival mode,not if,but when!! You will learn to eat anything that even resembles protein or a carbohydrate!! From one who has been there,The Serferdude
Apr 5, 2013 4:43PM
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HOW ABOUT HORSE MEAT--WHICH I WOULD NOT EAT EITHER
Apr 4, 2013 10:00PM
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A Guinea pig....Is just a cuter rat, or rodent as many would know..

Rabbits are rodents and squirrels are rats in trees, but unlike many rats they are a vegetarian  species.

I have eaten rabbit, squirrel, woodchuck(groundhog) and many others or at least tried..

Don't think I would be interested in a GP, but I'm sure they are eaten some or many places?

 

Yes dog is eaten in SE Asia and I believe the Chinese are into cats..

And monkeys or monkey brains are served at events in Viet Nam..

But I think monkeys are eaten several locations in the World, mostly the Tropics.

Apr 4, 2013 11:33AM
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It's a rat. Serve it in upscale NYC restaurants. They would never know the difference. I would.
Apr 4, 2013 4:12PM
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I had GP in Peru ...it wasn't bad ....BUT the ick factor is there
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