Alpaca sold by the box. 

I can see it now.  Okay so I’m day dreaming a little, but bare with me for a second.  So like I was saying … the thought occurred to me recently in one of my more illuminated moments that if Alpaca were sold in my grocery store it might look something like this… I can see it now…

A tan colored box.  In the background stands Machu Picchu in all its glory clearly bringing your subconscious mind to reflect upon the fineness of Peruvian culture and cuisine.  Perhaps in the foreground a close up of a banquet table reminiscent of the kind you would find on any Thanksgiving worth its stuffing.  And in the center… yes in the center… Alpaca sits on a platter surrounded by a garland of fruit and complemented by a sprig or two of parsley just for effect. 

The word Alpaca would be planted boldly towards the upper third in a dark blue Serif font – perhaps even with a subtle halo of light for effect.  Below in a box of maroon with blended edges would be written hollandaise special – now for limited time only

In the upper right?  A heart with the words “Could quite possibly reduce the risk of heart disease”.  Followed by a splash in the lower left with the caption: “Can help lower cholesterol followed by an asterix”.  When you finally find the accompanying asterix – buried somewhere on the back of the box in size 8 font – you discover that even the Surgeon General himself recommends eating products with alpaca listed as the primary ingredient.   

Okay so I’m kidding… well mostly… Actually I copied most of that off a box of Honey Nut Cheerios. But it’s interesting to think what Alpaca would be like if sold in our consumer society. How would it be marketed? Would it be FDA approved?

In Peru? … well they just let the product speak for itself. 

Gravy soaked Alpaca ... mmmm!

Gravy soaked Alpaca ... mmmm!

Give it a try

The meat is so popular that nearly every menu we saw in Peru offered multiple Alpaca entrees. So when we sat down to our first meal in Peru, I of course asked the waiter what the Alpaca was like. He responded emphatically, “It’s excellent! Better for you than beef – less fat and lower in cholesterol. Try it!”

Was it really that amazing? Or was he just trying to sell me on an expensive menu item? No matter. Try it I did.  I readied my fork and knife in anticipation…

The cut …

The bite …

The verdict … ?

But Alpaca, both alive and cooked, is more than just a tourist attraction in Peru, photographed and consumed across the country.

What you need to know

This relative of the camel, indigenous to this region of South America, has been held in high regard by Peruvians for centuries. Alpaca populations are particularly concentrated around the Lake Titicaca region of Peru and Bolivia. Five hundred years ago, Inca used Alpaca fiber to create elaborate garments for their wardrobe.

Some things haven’t changed … today, Alpaca wool products are some of the most highly sought items in Peru (and they’re not cheap!). The city of Arequipa is particularly known for its high-class Alpaca products.

It is common for people to have trouble distinguishing between the Alpaca and its close relatives, the Llama and the Vicuna, though all are members of the camelid family. Alpaca is smaller than the Llama, but larger than the Vicuna. Llams play an important role as pack animals, but Alpacas and Vicuna are bread primarily for their meat and their wool.

So when you find yourself in Peru looking for a hearty meal, try the alpaca! It tastes excellent, especially with a side of roasted potatoes. But just remember: it’s more than just a tasty meal; more than a slab of meat … you’re eating an important part of Peruvian culture and history.