Peruvians traditionally do not have guinea pigs as pets. To them, it’s a delicacy usually served with potatoes and salsa. It seems to remain prevalent as one of the countries that eats guinea pigs the most.
Peru’s ancestors, the Incas, have eaten them for centuries. The country consumes about 65 million of them a year as of 2018. They may not eat them every day, however.
Other South American countries that eat guinea pigs include Bolivia, Columbia and Ecuador. These three nations, along with Peru, make up the Andean Community of Nations (CAN). Historically, the guinea pig had been used for ceremonial reasons. However, studies revealed evidence of raising guinea pigs as livestock at least up until the 1990s.
This South American region used guinea pigs to feed their communities for more than 5,000 years. As of 2015, it’s used as festival food, such as during the religious Corpus Cristi celebrations honoring the saints, including Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Even though Peru seems to remain one of the countries that eats guinea pigs the most, they became domesticated about 3,000 years ago. That’s when the nation began to involve itself more heavily in agricultural pursuits and didn’t roam around so much.
Eventually, guinea pigs began to coexist with humans. Nevertheless, this animal classifies as a rodent and is one of the largest in the world. It does not exist anywhere in the wild as reported in 2021.
It may seem ironic that the same animal used to feed people in South America because it’s cheaper than other foods became a pet for wealthy people. However, that’s what apparently happened.
This animal migrated to Europe in the 16th century, and Queen Elizabeth I reportedly had one of the first European guinea pigs in her possession. Besides in the UK, archeological exploration turned up signs of them making it to Belgium.
Opinions vary concerning the safety of eating guinea pigs. It’s not technically a pig, so some Jewish religious organizations permit eating it. However, other religious standards refer to only certain mammals being eaten, and the guinea pig classifies as a rodent.
Rodents are not on the list of clean foods according to the Bible. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have any nutritional value. Certain foods just had remained forbidden based on the way those animals feed themselves, such as scavenging through trash.
While guinea pigs are pets in many countries, they are eaten in at least four countries. Some countries consider them a delicacy, while others eat them for ceremonial purposes.
Peru is the country that eats guinea pigs the most, but they are also consumed in Bolivia, Columbia, and Ecuador.