Peru guinea pig improves genetic potential, domestic sales increase significantly

High-quality breeding techniques have improved the genetic potential of Peru’s guinea pig, or cuy, and domestic sales have shot upward, said Lilia Chauca Francia, head of Peru’s National Agrarian Research Institute Cuy Project.

The guinea pig, originally domesticated for its high-protein meat in the Andes, can now be found at the supermarket, and in most of Peru’s exclusive restaurants, said Chauca in comments to daily Peru21.

“The government has been genetically developing and improving the guinea pig,” she added, “but we still have much to do. The poultry industry has a 40-year advantage over us, and the goal is to compete with this industry.”

The guinea pig, a major part of the diet in Peru and Bolivia – particularly in the highlands – requires much less room than traditional livestock and reproduces extremely quickly. Both rural and urban families raise guinea pigs for extra income, which are then commonly bought and sold at local markets, municipal fairs and now supermarkets. Peruvians consume an estimated 65 million guinea pigs each year, or 16,500 tons of guinea pig meat.

Though popular in Peru, massively exporting the guinea pig is not viable, according to Chauca.

“It can only be exported to sepecific areas in Europe and the U.S. where Peruvians live,” she said.

Although since the 1960s, efforts have been made to increase consumption of the animal outside South America, most U.S. residents and Europeans continue to perceive the food source as a household pet. In reality TV, guinea pig meat has been consumed and presented as an exotic dish by celebrity chefs Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain.

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