While the western world might regard guinea pigs as pets, in their native Peru, guinea pigs (known in Peru as cuy) are a delicacy, and over the past few years there has been a surge in demand for guinea pig meat. Farming these furry rodents is therefore becoming increasingly lucrative, and some Peruvians are looking to capitalise on this opportunity. In a country where the average peasant farmer can expect to earn $30 a month, guinea pig farmers are now reportedly earning as much as $130.
Guinea pigs have been eaten for millennia in some South American communities, where they are to this day worshipped, given as gifts, and used in religious ceremonies. The arrival of Dutch, Spanish, and English sailors in the 16th century first brought guinea pigs to Europe, where they became exotic pets for the wealthy. Today, most of the world considers guinea pigs household pets rather than livestock. Producers in South America are keen to change this opinion, and are looking to export more guinea pig meat to the United States. As South American communities migrate to the US, they bring with them their culinary traditions, and it is now possible to buy guinea pig meat in the freezer sections of select Latin American supermarkets.
Economics applicants might want to look at how an increase in producers will affect the supply and demand of guinea pig meat, as well as issues arising from the importation of guinea pig meat to countries like the US. Geography applicants may look at how this fits into wider trends such as globalisation, whilst applicants to History might use this case study as a means to examine the history of relations between indigenous South Americans and the European explorers from the 16th century.