Do People Eat Alpacas?

When most people think of alpacas, they will likely think of how cute, fluffy, and slightly strange they look. Those who like to knit or crochet might associate those animals with the soft alpaca wool, which has a texture close to cashmere and comes in various natural shades.

But then, we all know that humans are led by unbridled curiosity when it comes to finding new things to eat. Thus, it’s worth asking: do people eat alpacas? 

Yes, they do! And this practice is not some fancy new-fangled idea but goes back to when alpacas were first domesticated, about 6,000 to 7,000 years ago in Peru and they’re still on menus across Peru, Chile, and Bolivia.

Alpacas are smaller than llamas and thus were not used as beasts of burden, but they still had various uses in Incan, Chiribayan, and other cultures. Aside from being consumed they also played a huge role in ceremonies and rituals. Mummified alpacas were discovered by archaeologists to have been buried beneath house floors, which suggests that they have been sacrificed. 

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Do People Eat Alpacas?
Do People Eat Alpacas?

The alpaca (Vicugna pacos) is a species of camelid mammals from South America. It is often confused with the llama, although alpacas are often noticeably smaller. The two are closely related and can even successfully crossbreed. Both species are believed to have been domesticated from their wild relatives, the vicuña and guanaco. There are two breeds of alpaca: the Suri alpaca and the Huacaya alpaca.

Even the beef jerky we know today has first been made with the meat from alpacas and llamas. The word “jerky” comes from the language of the South American Quechua tribe. They called this kind of dried and salted meat ch’arki, which means ‘to burn (meat)’. When the Spanish conquistadors picked up this practice they simplified the word to charki which, after a while, turned into the word we use today: jerky

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Nowadays, alpacas are mostly bred for their fiber, but there are farmers that see it as unethical to only utilize one part of an animal, and so they are ever more often also used for their meat and their leather. Proponents of eating alpaca meat argue that it is the healthiest variety of red meat. It is low in saturated fat and cholesterol and has the lowest amount of calories of any land-based meat. 

Do Alpacas Spit at You? 

Do Alpacas Spit at You?
Do Alpacas Spit at You?

It is common knowledge that llamas will spit at you, but what about their close relatives, alpacas? Yes, both animals use spitting for several reasons. They spit at other animals to warn aggressors away, and to keep others away from their food. Females also spit to show males that they are not interested in their advances.

While llamas and alpacas generally do not tend to spit at humans, it is easy to recognize when you are in danger of getting spat at – if you see an alpaca raise its chin and flatten its ears it is a good idea to take a few steps back!

Sometimes they also warn you with a “pffft” noise before they unleash their stomach contents in the direction of the aggressor.  

While spitting is an effective way to keep threats at bay, llamas and alpacas are often faced with regret of what they have done, since the taste of what is their regurgitated stomach contents is as disgusting to them as it is for others. After spitting, they will often sit with their mouth hanging open so they do not have to taste what is inside their own mouth!  

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Why Do Alpacas Hum? 

Hearing the humming sound alpacas produce will remind you of NASCAR or Formula 1 racing. They make this sound for a variety of reasons. It is used as a sign of distress when they are separated from their herds, or when they are stressed or otherwise uncomfortable. Alpacas also hum to comfort each other and to show the connection between them. After a baby is born, it and its mother hum to each other almost constantly. 

Humming is not the only sound that alpacas make, though. Sometimes, they also click their tongue against the roof of their mouth – this is a sign of friendliness and submission. When frightened or trying to warn the herd of a supposed enemy they have a variety of screams and calls.

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If they want to threaten somebody, they make a snorting noise. The funniest noise is probably the so-called orgle: it sounds like a car trying to start and they make this sound both while they mate and when trying to attract a mating partner. 

Generally, alpacas are quite noisy animals. While they are not necessarily loud – except when they are distressed or looking for mates – they are very social creatures and talk to each other constantly with a variety of noises.