Environmentalists are lately suggesting a meat alternative to help us reduce our carbon footprint: Guinea pig. I know I've already lost half of you due to the "cute factor," and I'll likely lose the rest when I mention that the idea is actually to replace beef.
Let's hear them out.
Guinea pig is actually becoming a pretty common dish in South American restaurants (it's what you get when you order "cuy"). The trend is taking off so hard that middle-class foodies are ordering, photographing, blogging and presumably Instagram-ing about the guinea pig. They're cooked whole, can be grilled or deep-fried, and are otherwise sadly flayed and impaled on little sticks.
Lost your appetite yet? Wait until you hear the good part. Eating guinea pig is totally green, man.
Matt Miller, a science writer with The Nature Conservancy, says that eating rodents and other small livestock are a good low-impact meat alternative to beef, which costs quite a bit of carbon to put on your plate. He points out that Colombia ran into a problem years back when they cleared forest for cattle pasture, which caused erosion and water pollution.
"They were encouraging people to switch from cattle to guinea pigs," he said. "Guinea pigs don't require the land that cattle do. They can be kept in backyards, or in your home. They're docile and easy to raise."
And apparently, they're very tasty. Miller says guinea pig is "delicious, very tender and hard to compare to anything else." One chef describes guinea pig as possessing "tender flesh and very tender skin." Another describes it as "very oily, like pork combined with rabbit."
People who order it in South America clean the bones head-to-toe.
But will guinea pig catch on in the United States? Miller says no, unless we all get over ourselves.
"There's a clear cultural prejudice against eating guinea pigs, and rodents in general, in the United States," he said. "But finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint is a good idea, and so is eating small livestock, like guinea pigs."
So if you want to reduce your carbon footprint from your dinner table, get comfortable seeing this:
Would you eat guinea pig?