Eat more cuy!
That’s the mantra of a new program promoted by Ecuador’s Ministry of Agriculture that, if it’s successful, will mean that not only will Ecuadorians be eating more of the tasty, cuddly little critters, but so will the rest of world.
A two-day symposium on increasing cuy production will be hosted next Wednesday through Friday at the University of Cuenca. The event is sponsored by the Agricultural Ministry, the university faculty of agricultural sciences, Llaguna Laboratories and the Ecuadorian Development Alliance.
According to Manuel Soria, dean of the agricultural sciences faculty at the university, the purpose of the symposium is to examine methods to increase cuy (guinea pig to gringos) production by using large-scale, mechanized techniques. “The demand is growing in Asian countries, the U.S. and Spain, as well as in our area. We need build an industry that is not based just in the home but that uses modern farming technology.” Sorie emphasized, however, that the expansion must come with sanitary and humane conditions.
According the Ministry, other cuy production events are being planned at university agricultural programs throughout the country.
Although cuy is not the staple it once was in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, its populity has held steady in recent years, Soria says, and has grown overseas. “There is room for growth in the industry and it can provide a good livelihood for many of our people, particularly in rural areas.
Azuay province is the largest cuy producer in Ecuador and agricultural officials have long sought to modernize the business.
If production is increased, says Pedro Sacoto, of Llaguno, better, more scientific controls must be standardized throughout the industry. “To meet the export demand we must improve the production process to insure sanitary conditions. Other countries will demand this.”
Sacoto says he has no sympathy for the occasional protests against cuy consumption. “This is not only a part of our diet, it is part of our history,” he says. “And besides, I’ve always agreed with the Hindu heretic Wady Vahedi that sacred cows make the best hamburgers.”
Photo caption: Cuys for sale at a Cuenca mercado