Letter Re: Breeding Guinea Pigs as a Protein Source?

Mr. Rawles,
My husband and I are having a preparedness debate that we were hoping you could shed some light on. While he’s more of a conventional preparer (food, supplies, guns) I prefer to think of “things” that would help us survive if we were to ever run out of, or lose the conventional supplies. This distinct difference in preparation brings me to my story.

Several months ago I was watching a special on, I believe National Geographic, where the camera crew followed an actor on his journey through the country of Peru. On his trip he went into the Andes Mountains and spent several days with a Peruvian family. He tried to learn some of their language, customs, and try the foods they survive off of. This is where I became interested – aside from the grains and vegetables that they grow, the main staple of meat for the villagers in this area are guinea pigs. In Peru guinea pigs are called Cuy [Cuyes, Cuyos in the plural] and they are considered a delicacy in many parts of the country, and eaten only on special occasions, though in this village it seemed to be a daily occurrence.

My husband thought I was insane for even suggesting that we eat guinea pigs, and maybe you will too, but my rationale for it is this: In a TEOTWAWKI situation you can’t be picky about what you eat, and what you eat should provide more energy than you expend acquiring it. Guinea pigs are easy to breed, easy to feed, and easy to “hunt” (and by hunt I mean pick up off the ground). They are high in protein, (supposedly) tender and delicious, and one guinea pig per person provides a hearty meal.
My question to you is: would you, as the preparedness guru, consider breeding guinea pigs as a food source – a good move?
Sincerely, – M Q B.

The Memsahib Replies: I bred Cavies (Guinea Pigs) for several years. At the peak, I had about 100 of them. In my case, I was breeding them to develop genetics for good maternal instincts, easy birth, and beautiful coat colors and coat texture variations. (BTW, breeding cavies is fantastic for homeschoolers to learn about genetics, since the gestation period is so short–around 65 days.) I sold all of my “extras” (that didn’t meet the strict genetic goals of my breeding program) to a wholesaler that provided young cavies to pet stores and the cavy show trade. In all, I sold about 300. Cavies are quite easy to breed, but raising them to butcher size might take a lot of time.

I never raised mine for butcher, but I did raise 150+ Rex rabbits for butcher. In a survival situation, I’d prefer cavies, since they don’t tunnel (which would be an escape risk), and they can be successfully bred in colony ground pens. (This is difficult, at best, with rabbits, because of their prodigious tunneling, vicious fighting, and the tendency of mothers to eat their young, when under stress!)

In summary, I have bred both rabbits and cavies. If your goal is to have very small livestock as a protein source, in a warm climate, then I’d recommend cavies, for self-sufficiency.

Warning: While rabbits are prone to biting and kicking and scratching (I have the scars on my forearms to prove it), cavies are so adorable that there is the risk that in pre-TEOTWAWKI times, family members may prove too tender-hearted to ever be able to slaughter, butcher, and eat their cavy friends. The grateful “wheet, wheet” call of of a cavy when presented a carrot treat can melt an owner’s heart! I call this Too Cute Tribble Syndrome (TCTS). But I must reiterate that we had no such compunctions when it came to rabbits! (They were cute, but they never “talked back” to us.) I’ve butchered almost 150 rabbits, with no remorse.