Is alpaca a good source of meat? What does alpaca meat taste like? Alpacas are usually kept for fleece production, but recently more and more people are realizing that their meat is quite tasty as well. In this article, we discuss the growing trend of harvesting alpaca meat when culling the herd. Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
Alpaca Meat Production Is Not Cost Effective
While fiber will always be the main product associated with alpaca raising, their meat is tasty and can make a nice specialty meat.
Raising alpacas just for meat production would not be practical because growing them to full size (about deer sized) is much more expensive than growing animals such as cattle and pigs to full size.
For this reason, if an alpaca is slaughtered for meat, it’s important that all parts of the animal be used. Those alpaca ranchers who do cull the herd through meat production also make use of every part of the animal. Examples of this include:
- Hides can be used to make leather.
- The internal organs can be used to make dog treats.
Alpaca fiber prices have gone down in the past couple of decades, but by making use of all aspects of the animal, it is possible to make up some of these losses.
While you would not raise alpacas primarily for meat, when you cull the herd (remove unproductive animals) meat and leather can be important byproducts. A mature alpaca yields approximately 60 pounds of meat.
What Does Alpaca Meat Taste Like?
Alpaca meat is quite similar to the meat of a deer. It is sweet and tender, lean and higher in nutrition than red meat such as beef. This is a very high protein meat that is low in cholesterol, calories and fat.
Like venison, alpaca meat is considered a specialty or exotic meat. It has the flavor impact of beef, but it also has the health benefits of poultry. In Australia, alpaca meat is quite popular as a gourmet delicacy.
Where Can You Buy Alpaca Meat?
At this point in time, it can be a little bit difficult to find alpaca meat in the United States. Your best bet to locate it would be to contact a local alpaca breeder and follow any leads he or she may be able to give you. You can also open your own alpaca farm although you’ll certainly need a bit of knowledge.
Even though alpaca are considered livestock animals, they are not considered meat animals by the USDA and cannot receive the stamp of approval that would allow sales across state lines.
For this reason, sale of alpaca meat is overseen by the FDA as well as local and state authorities. This prevents alpaca breeders from being able to tap into a nationwide market for alpaca meat.
Ground Alpaca Meat Combinations Are Easier To Find
There is a workaround for this problem. When sold as a ground meat product, a minimum of 3% ground pork or beef can be incorporated so that the overall product can be inspected and approved by the USDA.
Ground alpaca meat can be used to make hamburgers, meatballs, casseroles or in any other way that you might use ground beef or turkey.
While selling the product as a ground meat does deliver high quality, healthy, low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-calorie meat to consumers, it does shortchange the potential of alpaca meat. In traditional cuts such as:
- Shoulder Roll
- Back Strap
- Strip Loin
As the video below demonstrates, alpaca meat is an excellent choice for grilling, searing and high heat cooking. Quick cooking to a medium/medium rare degree of doneness is most desirable.
Rather like goat meat (check this comparison of goat vs lamb meat), alpaca meat can become quite dry if overcooked.
How To Cook An Alpaca Steak
Frequently Asked Questions
Interestingly, its mildness is its greatest attribute in terms of flavor. It is not gamey at all, and it will take on the flavors of other ingredients in dishes in which it is included. It is also very healthy with very high protein content and extremely low cholesterol levels.
Alpacas have been raised for meat and fleece for thousands of years in Peru, Bolivia and Chile. They are still popular farm animals in these locations, and eating their meat is common. There is also a growing market for Alpaca meat in Australia, where it is known as Viande.
This meat is similar to venison in its nutritional characteristics, but it is very different in its taste. Domestically raised alpaca have very mild flavored tender meat that may even have a sweet taste.
In Australia, where this specialty meat is becoming more and more popular, it is possible to buy all parts of the animal to be used just as you would any other meat. Commercially prepared alpaca meat products, such as sausage, salami, pre-formed burgers, hot dogs and more are also available to purchase in the land down-under.
Since it is not possible to get USDA approval of alpaca meat (because it is not currently considered a meat animal by this agency) you can only buy/sell it in venues where it is allowed by local state authorities and the FDA. This typically means places like farmers’ markets within the state where the meat was produced.