Why Are More Americans Dining on Guinea Pigs?

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An unusual delicacy is taking over in some gastronomic corners. Guinea pigs are usually thought of as pets in the United States, but more and more, the creatures are winding up on Americans' plates. Eating the rodents isn't merely an adventurous choice for curious gourmets: According to The Salt, eating guinea pigs is good for the environment.



When eaten, guinea pigs are usually grilled or deep fried, and eaten in their entirety, from head to toe. The practice of eating guinea pigs comes to the States via immigrants and expatriates from Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and other South American countries where the animals are a normal part of people's diets. But it wasn't until the last few years that American foodies caught on to guinea pig cuisine, and the trend has caught on.

One guinea pig importer reported to The Salt that demand for guinea pigs as a food source has doubled since 2008. A popular Peruvian restaurant in Queens, N.Y., didn't have guinea pig on the menu at all eight years ago, but the restaurants owner says demand has climbed annually.

There's more to dining on guinea pig than simply making an unusual dietary choice. Environmentalists say it's also a green alternative to other meat.

Raising cattle requires a great deal of resources, including clearing land for pastures. The carbon footprint and overall environmental impact of producing beef is significant. Guinea pigs have a much smaller impact. "Guinea pigs don't require the land that cattle do," says science writer Matt Miller. "They can be kept in backyards or in your home. They're docile and easy to raise."

Heifer International, the humanitarian organization that provides communities with the means to produce food through livestock, also supports the cultivation of guinea pigs as a food source. They claim that guinea pigs are twice as efficient at turning the food they consume into meat.

Says Miller, "Finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint is a good idea, and so is eating small livestock, like guinea pigs."

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