Guinea pigs. I have two of them in my house now. My daughters wanted them for pets. And they’re OK with me. They’re cute. They make funny noises. And more importantly, they make my girls happy. Indeed, guinea pigs are popular pets for many children.
Guinea pigs are also well known for their role in biological research, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries. In fact, we often use the term “guinea pig” to refer to a test subject. For example, if my friend just learned a new massage technique, she might be looking for someone to practice it on. So I might say to her, “I’ll be your guinea pig!”
So, you might think of guinea pigs as pets or research animals, but have you ever thought of them as a food source? Yeah, that’s right. You can eat them! In fact, guinea pigs are a traditional food source for people in the Andes mountains, in the area around Peru and Bolivia.
But here is the really interesting thing about guinea pigs as food: the meat is high in protein and very, very cheap to produce. Guinea pigs reproduce very quickly, they don’t need much space, and they can survive off of leftover scraps of food from the kitchen of their human owners. This is perfect for people living in rural regions in developing countries, who cannot afford to raise pigs or cows for meat.
Knowing how economically sensible guinea pigs are as a food source, a university in Peru began a program to breed larger guinea pigs for export to other countries. Maybe efforts like this will help poorer people around the world supplement their diet with much needed protein at much cheaper costs.
So the real question is: would you eat a guinea pig? I suppose I would try it if someone served me one. Just don’t tell my daughters. The idea of their father eating a cousin of one of their cute little pet guinea pigs wouldn’t make them happy at all.
If you have any stories about eating guinea pigs, or other uncommon food sources, please post them in the comments section below.