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May 2, 2012

Africa Explores Guinea Pig Protein Potential

Guinea pig protein is of
increasing interest in Africa
because the animals can be
bred quickly and they eat
non-human food sources.
Photo: Stock Journal, Australia

Guinea Pig Protein From a Non-Conventional Livestock Source

Guinea pig protein was popular among the ancient Incas and "cuy" remains a popular dish today in Peru. As AlertNet explores in an article published on 2 May 2012, guinea pig protein now enjoys a new popularity in modern day Africa. Known in Africa as "cavies," guinea pigs are rapidly being bred as a new protein source.

CGIAR's International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) report that guinea pig protein is an important new livestock addition in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They can be bred quickly as they produce 10-15 new cavies annually.  Although statistics are elusive, they are replacing larger livestock herds.  In a country where warfare is common, cavies can be carried when people need to flee.  Due to this flexibility, they are referred to as "mobile banks." 

Guinea pig protein is helping to address acute levels of malnutrition in the DRC - some of the highest in the world. Guinea pig protein is relatively inexpensive and "the lean white meat is around 20 percent protein, more than beef or lamb, and the skin is more than 30 percent protein."

It remains a mystery as to how the cavies were transferred from South America to Africa. And, there is still little statistical information on the extent of cavy consumption, other than scientists have notice their growing popularity in the region extending from Cote d'Ivoire to Tanzania.  CGIAR scientists are currently mapping genetic diversity and establishing breeding programs in an attempt to dissuade inbreeding, which causes mortality and disease.  

The government of Cameroon has established a non-conventional livestock programs. Guinea pig protein is one of the issues covered under this new program along with rabbits, grasscutters (a rodent) and snails.  This program is being advised by CGIAR, which is helping to create a Cavy Innovation Platform.  CGIAR is doing the same in the DRC.  This include promotion of guinea pig protein in restaurants.  It also seeks to coordinate information resources between policymakers, universities, agricultural research institutes, NGOs, and farmers.

For more see: 

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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