Catamarca Llama Meat

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The meat of llamas (Lama glama, of the Camelidae family) is a traditional food for the small communities in the Catamarca region of northern Argentina. The historic production area of these llamas is Antofagasta de la Sierra, a small town where the animals pasture on the moors at about 4,000 meters ABS.

Llamas are herbivores with long and soft fur that is shorter on the head, neck, and thighs than on the body. The color of their coats ranges from white, to yellow, to brown and even black. This animal can vary in size from 150 to 200 cm long, between 100 and 130 cm tall at the shoulder, and the tail can be from 20 to 25 cm long. They can weigh anywhere between 130 and 160 kg. Pregnancy lasts for about one year, and there is usually only one calf born at a time, in rare cases two.

Despite the fact that these animals have been raised since time immemorial in the Andes, beginning during the Incan Empire in which they were used for sacrifices, llama meat has recently been supplanted by cow meat, while their wool, which was used to produce textiles, has also been replaced by other materials. As llama breeding is not very profitable and there is no real market for them, the total number of heads is gradually decreasing. Fabric made from llama wool, which is used to make ponchos and blankets, are still considered typical Andean products and their sales have resisted over time much better than the consumption of llama meat has. Although less fatty and more sinewy, llama meat has always been prepared in similar way to beef: as roasts, in stews, or in empanadas. The meat is delicious either stewed or grilled: a typical dish is a llama meat stew with quinoa and Andean potatoes.

Llama meat is still consumed regularly only in the small mountain towns that are cut off from communication with other communities, and is thus often defined contemptuously by other peoples as “Food for Indians”. The inhabitants of these small towns consume only that which they grow or breed, but for historic and cultural reasons they consider anything that comes from the city, including beef, to be superior to their own local products.

The lack of demand for llama products, together with the changing food consumption habits of the locals, is causing the gradual abandonment of llama breeding in the Catamarca region

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