Panorama of the Week: Guinea Pig Farm, Peru

Guinea pig (cuy) is apparently a critical component of Andean cuisine. At the pre-Incan ruins of Kuelap, we were told that guinea pigs have been domesticated and bred as a source of protein for thousands of years.

And although the selection of meats throughout Peru and Ecuador has (thankfully) expanded substantially, guinea pig remains a prized meal.

As part of a microfinance project we profiled in a village outside of Huancavelica, Peru, we took the opportunity to visit a local, yet fairly large-scale guinea pig farm. The rate at which guinea pigs multiplied here makes rabbits look tame. In the course of only a few months, the guinea pig population in the breeding center had expanded from a few dozen to over 1600. We tried to get our heads around the math and gave up.

After our guinea pig eating experience in Ecuador, we declined another offer even though our Peruvian friends insisted their cuy was much better than Ecuadoran cuy. Neighborly rivalries — even when it comes to guinea pig — run deep.

360-Degree Panorama: Guinea Pig Farm in Huancavelica, Peru

panorama directions

Enjoy this?

Then sign up for more travel wisdom & inspiration from 7+ years of traveling the world.

Comments

  1. says

    @Shey: I know — a lot of people had them as pets. Hard sometimes to think of them as a delicacy, and also as a source of income and a way of life. But that’s how it worked in rural Peru at least.

  2. says

    Really enjoyed you site and the Peru related materials. I visited Peru with my daughter and we really enjoyed it – well most of it. The guinnea pig was not real tasty!
    Nice photography.

  3. says

    We had it in what was considered to be a very nice restaurant overlooking the main plaza in Cusco, Peru. I have to say it didn’t even look appetizing – served head and all, and was rather overcooked if anything. There is very little meat (as you can imagine) We basically “tasted” it for the sense of the experience. It was, as they say, much like chicken. But again – we tasted and left, going across the square to McDonalds for some “real food?”
    I don’t know how to post a photo here but will put one in the gallery on my site later today or tomorrow — where you can see this “delicacy” if you would like.

  4. EC says

    I consider guinea pigs as the pets that a lot of people enjoy feeding and I ever thought that it can become the ingredient for exotic cuisine.

  5. says

    @Jessica: You’ll know soon enough how you feel! When you start seeing certain food items around you, it seems much more “normal” than if you think about it from home. One thing to take advantage of in Peru are the fresh fruit juices – so delicious and really cheap.

    @Henry: That’s what makes the world interesting and diverse – what seems odd to one group is normal to another. As for the taste, it’s like a combination of duck and rabbit, a bit greasy. Wasn’t really my favorite taste, especially as it’s a lot of work for not very much meat.

    @Bruce: We had a similar experience to you with our guinea pig experience. Ours wasn’t over-cooked, but I didn’t really like the taste of the meat. And, it’s a lot of work to get to the meat.

    @EC: Guinea pigs as pets is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the Andes, they have been a source of protein for thousands of years. Interesting, no?

  6. Ray says

    We also have guinea pigs at home, a pair actually, about a month ago and I’m still in the process on knowing how to take care of them.

  7. says

    @Ray: I’ve never raised guinea pigs myself, but from looking at the ones at this farm it seems like the key components are lots of water, food and making sure you clean the cage frequently.

  8. says

    When I was in Peru a few years ago. I tried this deli thing once. Not bad, but i thought it tasted more like lamb. Nothing special though, as it was a lot of work to eat, since u more less nibble the bones etc. I do not understand how one place can still eat a thing like that. That requires so much work to eat. To each their own.
    I think its time to look at that meat grown in a lab.
    However then again. Someone from a country like say in the middle East would consider a plate of spaghetti something really disgusting. So sometimes things are opposite when you flip things around. A different way of thinking.

    good website guys i read quite a bit of it already, i have travel quite a bit myself
    look forward toyour kind response

  9. Kima says

    I love this article. For a couple of months my husband and I have doing some research on guinea pigs in Peru. We have been trying to source a local farm in Peru where we could purchase about a dozen guinea pigs. When i read this article, I said perhaps some one through this comment might be able to provide me with contact information on a local guinea pig farm in Peru, where we could purchase a dozen. I really do hope this works. Many thanks.

  10. says

    @JR: Guinea pig was definitely not my favorite thing to eat and it’s a lot of work for the amount of meat you get. But as you said, it’s all about what you are used to and grow up with.

    @Kima: Well, you could always make your way to Huancavelica and seek out this village nearby :) Otherwise, try to visit some of the weekly markets where animals are often sold on the edge. I’m also sure that if you talk with the owner of a restaurant that sells guinea pig dishes, he might be able to tell you his source. I know of quite a few places in Ecuador where you could buy them, but less in Peru. Good luck!

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>