I’ll be honest.
I have never once looked at my chinchilla and wondered if I could eat it or what it might taste like.
I’ve never thought that about my dog either.
When we keep an animal as a pet, it is hard to imagine eating it.
But that does not mean that people in other parts of the world feel the same.
And there is nothing wrong with that. When it comes to the chinchilla, there are actually some good reasons to eat it.
Of course, there are far better reasons not to eat it, at least in my opinion.
Keep reading to learn whether you can eat a chinchilla and what it tastes like. We’ll cover both sides of the argument fairly, so you can make up your own mind on the subject.
- 1 Can You Eat A Chinchilla?
- 1.1 5 Reasons To Eat Chinchilla Meat
- 1.2 6 Reasons Not To Eat Chinchilla
- 2 What Does Chinchilla Taste Like?
- 3 You Can Eat Chinchilla: Final Thoughts
Can You Eat A Chinchilla?
Yes, you can eat a chinchilla after cooking it properly. Chinchillas are herbivorous rodents and humans have consumed herbivorous animals since times immemorial.
Chinchilla meat is tender and surprisingly delicious. However, chinchillas are also endangered, which is one of the reasons humans should not hunt them for food.
All told, there are a number of reasons not to eat chinchilla. But there are also some good reasons to consume them.
Since I am a chinchilla owner and run this website, you can probably guess where I stand. I could never eat one. Nevertheless, I will stay neutral for this article and simply present good reasons to eat chinchillas and good reasons not to. You can make up your own mind.
5 Reasons To Eat Chinchilla Meat
There are several reasons why chinchillas can make good food for humans. Let’s take a look at the most important ones.
Chinchilla Meat Is Delicious
Argentinians eat viscacha, which is a member of the chinchilla family. Its meat is considered a delicacy in that part of the world.
Some people have compared the delicate meat of the viscacha to that of the rabbit, in that it is flavorful, not as intense as turkey, and surprisingly very tasty.
While I obviously haven’t tasted it, I’ve also heard that chinchilla meat is a bit like pork, but a lot more tender. It is similar to guinea pig in flavor and in the fact that both are quite oily, like duck meat.
Innovative chefs have even come up with delicious recipes such as the viscacha a la Portuguesa, which is a stew made of chinchilla meat, peppers, garlic, oregano, onions, and tomatoes in a flavorful sauce that brings out the meat’s earthy flavor.
Meat Of Choice For Many Cultures For Centuries
Eating chinchilla, squirrel, or rodent meat is not a new concept at all. In fact, many cultures have been known to survive on rodent meat for centuries.
In South America, tribes have to fish and hunt for survival and chinchilla meat is readily available in abundance, when other game meat is lacking. They basically have to eat any meat they can get their hands on.
Even today, these households prepare viscacha or chinchillas in the traditional manner – a la escabeche – by marinating it in oil and vinegar. The acid and oil reduce the intensity of chinchilla meat, making it tender, juicier, and more flavorful. Hungry hunters happily devour this offering, not caring, or perhaps even forgetting, that the meat comes from a large burrowing rodent.
Help Control The Population Of A Pesky Rodent
While chinchillas are mostly endangered, there are some countries like Argentina that are fighting the over-population of certain chinchilla subspecies.
The main reason why Argentinian farmers started eating viscacha, the chinchilla’s distant cousin, is that the large populations were harmful to crops. These burrowing rodents would enter farms and destroy newly planted seeds. Moreover, viscacha burrows would create uneven terrain that caused horses to trip.
To curb their ever-increasing population, Argentinian farmers started laying traps to capture these pesky rodents. After trying their hand at cooking the trapped viscachas, they discovered the meat is delicious. Soon restaurants like El Baqueano in San Telmo started selling viscacha dishes.
A Sustainable Way Of Feeding The World
Statistics pertaining to world hunger and malnutrition are alarming. It is important that we look for other means of feeding our children.
Based on this, some believe that farming and eating rodents, like chinchillas, could be a sustainable way of alleviating world hunger and malnutrition.
Even celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver have started making these sustainable choices, which are now reflected in their restaurant menus. More people are turning to game meat such as squirrel or guinea pig, instead of the usual fare, since they are abundant and delicious.
As mentioned above, countries in South America, where there are considerable chinchilla populations, are already using chinchillas in their menu offerings.
Of course, it may be quite a while before we actually start seeing this delicacy on the American menu.
But if you ever make a trip to South America, you may want to add restaurants like El Baqueano in San Telmo and El Hornero (located on the outskirts of Greater Buenos Aires in González Catán) to your itinerary. The latter is known to serve delicious braised viscacha and people visit it from far and wide to taste this delicacy.
Chinchilla Meat Is Protein-Rich And Healthy
The nutritional value of chinchilla meat is higher than you might think. Most chinchillas weigh up to 500 grams and cooked chinchilla meat could provide you with almost 60 grams of lean protein. In other words, it can be a great way to build those muscles!
6 Reasons Not To Eat Chinchilla
Now let’s take a look at the other side of the argument. Here are six great reasons not to eat chinchillas.
They Are An Endangered Species
The IUCN has listed chinchillas as endangered species. There are estimated to be fewer than 10,000 chinchillas alive today in the wild. They are already hunted extensively for their fur.
Adding them as a food item will only reduce their population further. This cannot be great for the ecosystem. The WWF estimates that the planet loses nearly 0.01 to 0.1% of species annually. We do not want to add chinchillas to the list.
That said, some of the chinchilla’s relatives are not endangered. As mentioned above, the viscacha is plentiful, a pest, and apparently delicious. Perhaps it makes sense to eat them, but not the actual chinchilla.
They Can Carry Diseases
If you’re not sure of the source of your chinchilla meat, it is best to refrain from eating it. Rodents like rats and chinchillas are prone to carry diseases.
These burrowing animals are scavengers, so it is not surprising that they can be hosts to pathogens that cause diseases like tularemia, salmonella, and leptospirosis. These diseases can be passed on to humans, especially if you consume raw chinchilla meat.
They Can Carry Traces Of Toxins
If you are not sure about the method used to kill the chinchilla, it is best to refrain from consuming its meat.
If the chinchilla was killed using rat poison or pesticide, there could be traces of the chemical in its system. No amount of cooking can eliminate this toxin.
Many Religions Prohibit Rodent Meat
Many religions like Islam consider eating rat meat ‘haram’, i.e. it is prohibited in their culture, because rodents like chinchillas are considered dirty and unhygienic.
One Chinchilla Provides Very Little Meat
A small chinchilla weighing less than 500 grams does not provide much meat. Wild chinchillas are also quite skinny and they mostly have a lot of dense fur which we cannot eat. To make a hearty stew, you’d need several chinchillas. Being rare meat, they can be expensive too.
Chinchillas Are Adorable
Finally, the main reason not to eat a chinchilla is that they are such cute and cuddly animals! In the same way most of us cannot imagine eating cats and dogs, I, for one, can’t imagine eating a cute chinchilla either.
What Does Chinchilla Taste Like?
It’s a cliche to say every unusual meat tastes like chicken, so I’m happy to tell you this one does not taste like that at all. Chinchillas taste similar to guinea pigs. The meat is quite oily and has a texture similar to duck. If you had the meat in a stew and someone told you it was rabbit or guinea pig, you would believe them.
You Can Eat Chinchilla: Final Thoughts
You certainly can eat chinchillas, but that does not mean you should. Since they are endangered, it is better to stick to the eating the chinchilla’s relative, the viscacha, if you are curious. At least until chinchilla’s are farmed for food.
Of course most of us could never imagine eating one of these cute little furballs. I won’t judge others for doing so, since I’m sure they have good reasons (many of which we covered above), but I certainly won’t ever eat a chinchilla myself.