LIMA, Peru - Are hard times threatening your Christmas dinner? Well then, Peru has the answer: guinea pig.
Officials in the coastal Peruvian province of Callao yesterday hailed the Andean rodent as a low-cost, low-fat alternative to a traditional turkey or roast-pork Christmas dinner.
Guinea pigs can feed seven or eight for about $3.20, Callao official Mario Sanguinity told Associated Press Television.
"The idea is to give the people a tasty, economical option," he said.
The presentation included a live guinea pig dressed as Santa Claus and eight of its comrades laid out fried, broiled and roasted in traditional dishes from different regions of Peru.
Callao resident Silvia Carazas said she plans to make the switch to guinea pig at Christmas.
"The animal is rich in protein and has zero cholesterol as well, very important for those of us looking to watch our weight," she said.
The tiny cuts of white meat are often compared to rabbit and dark chicken. Called "cuy" in Peru, guinea pig is a stable source of income for farmers and holds an elevated place in Andean folklore.
A painting of the Last Supper hanging in the principal cathedral of the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco depicts Christ and the 12 disciples dining on guinea pig. *