Americans Are Serving Alpaca for Dinner

The llama-like animal is growing in popularity for meat eaters in the U.S.

Fred Gan

If your hamburger isn’t cutting it, try alpaca. The other red meat is growing in popularity in the United States, reports Modern Farmer

Alpaca are primarily bred for their fleecy fiber—the meat from the llama-like animal is a byproduct of culling herds—and they're relatively new to American farms, having come to the country only in 1984. They're also an anomaly within the livestock market: the USDA doesn't think alpaca falls under its regulatory purview, according to Modern Farmer, which means meat sales fall under the jurisdiction of the FDA and local state authorities.

Modern Farmer explains:

While this is good enough for local co-ops and farmers market, it also means alpaca farmers seeking a national meat market are shut out – they can’t sell their product to a state that doesn’t honor this voluntary inspection seal.

Vermont’s Cas-Cad-Nac ranch, for instance, sells the meat straight to consumers and to local retailers. According to the ranch's website, it offers "various cuts" of meat along with homemade sausages. Ground alpaca, the ranch says, “makes an excellent substitute for ground beef.”

The Twisted Suri Alpaca Ranch in Minnesota has more of an all-alpaca allure, using every part of the animal from its hide to its manure. “Nobody can raise alpacas just for meat” because of cost reasons, Roger Welck, owner of the ranch, told Modern Farmer.

Alpaca is lower in calories, fat and cholesterol than its red meat counterparts. And it’s also available in garlic snack sticks or pepper jerky from a Wisconsin specialty food store. What's it actually taste like? According to one reviewer, "Alpaca meat is very similar to venison." Food for thought, the next time you crave an exotic meat treat. 

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