Tuesday, January 20, 2009

LaViande and the question of meat...

Controversial subject warning...

I wrote this last week but have been in two minds about whether or not to post it because, if there is one subject that is guaranteed to polarise alpaca farmers, it's the subject of selling our animals for slaughter.

Personally, it's not something that I can see us ever doing here at Prados.

Of course, they've been eating alpaca in South America for thousands of years but here in Australia, the sums involved are only just starting to make sense.

Females are definitely off the menu for the foreseeable future, their value alive far exceeds what they could reach for food. It's the males that are the issue. Trouble is that there is only a finite market for pets and guardians and, as the Australian herd grows into a viable industry, it's a question we have to face - only a tiny number of males produced will go on to be certified for stud work but there aren't enough yet to have a commercially viable fleece-only industry. In a commercial breeding program, what happens to the rest?

The people at LaViande are quite sure of what the answer is - commercial fleece, meat and hide as a combined industry. WARNING - Many small breeders I know find some of the images on their website, particularly those in the brochure showing cuts of meat to be uncomfortable viewing - you have been warned!

I have tried it, Steve from LaViande came to our last regional AGM and provided steaks and sausages.

Now, I'm an unapologetic carnivore and I can understand the commercial imperative that is leading our industry down this path but, I have to say, apart from the queasiness about the idea of eating animals that we are still small enough to know by name and character, I have to say that I was unimpressed - the simple fact is that, on the plate, it's quite bland. The bottom line is that there is much tastier meat available which is much cheaper to produce - currently I remain unconvinced.

My own opinion is that it will happen, it will become part of the industry. Here in Adelaide alpaca is already served at the Hilton and I know of one butcher in the hills that stocks it from time to time. But I think that there will be, at least for the foreseeable future, a split in the industry based on size of breeder. Pets and guardians sell at a higher market price per head than as food but they carry a much higher overhead to the breeder in terms of sales and after-sales support for the new owner. I think the meat industry will appeal far more to the biggest breeders who can produce larger numbers of stock animals and don't necessarily want to take the late night phone calls because little Susie's pet alpaca is off its feed. Smaller breeders who are more suited to the personal touch should then be better positioned to satisfy the needs of the lower volume market.

Hope I haven't put anyone off with this post. I know this an issue that is only really relevant in Australia at the moment as we pass the million animal count, but it will inevitably follow in other countries as well as the various national herd sizes increase.


  1. Touchy subject for many, but inevitable. They eat alpaca meat in South-America as well. Why shouldn't they?

  2. Hi Perry,

    I met Steve from LaViande in Sydney at the WAC. I try to be open minded, so I tried the meat myself. It was very tasty, delicious in fact. I can see the logic behind it, but like you, we won't be breeding for meat here. I can understand why it is happening in Australia. It will have appear here in the UK eventually too. For the same reasons.

    At leastv you have the guts to write about it on your blog. That's very forward thinking.



  3. As numbers increase I can see it makes sense, but I too will not be breeding for meat. I'm afraid I'm not as brave as you boys I couldn't bring myself to try it, but then again I can't even eat the lambs I breed let alone one of my pacas!

  4. I hope it dosen't happen here in the UK...I would like to think, as mentioned there are other alternatives on the market already !

    Although I do realise that it does happen in other countries, and alpacas are farmed much like we farm sheep....!...although I do not eat meat very often, and Im also not a true veggie either !!....I will not be breeding for the meat market...I would rather not breed at all, if this was the only route !, this is why I have selected alpacas above other livestock...as I do not wish to participate in that side of farming, this is just my personal choice.......

    Maybe we need to regulate the numbers before we are faced with too many animals that will devalue the actual alpaca breed !! in order for this to ba a safety net to stop this happening !!..............Jayne