“Once people taste the meat, the feedback is positive all the way”
Alpaca are traditionally eaten in many South American countries, but are still considered taboo as a food in North America. Michael Lutz and brothers Danny and Wayne have decided to ignore that taboo and are now producing a variety of alpaca meats at their farm near here.
Belle Valley Farms is a diversified operation which raises grains, cattle, alpaca and chickens. The Lutzes first purchased alpaca in 1997, and began butchering them in 2004. They currently have 50 head of alpaca, which they raise for breeding stock and meat production.
Michaels says producing quality alpaca meat requires a lot of trial and error and experimentation. He experimented by slaughtering animals at different ages, and feeding them different grain rations to create a more tender meat. Alpaca don’t require much feed, and seven of them eat the equivalent of a single steer.
“The combination of feeding and genetics play a role in the quality of the meat,” explained Michael.
Alpaca is a dark meat, so proper cooking technique is key. The meat needs to be cooked lightly and served rare to medium rare. Michael compares the meat to a cross between bison and beef.
Available cuts include striploin, shanks, hamburger, tenderloins and steaks. The Lutzes have also been working with a processor to create smokies, jerkies and honey garlic sticks and have done their own experiments to develop different recipes, including one for alpaca meatloaf. The meat is high in iron, and low in calories, fat and cholesterol
Michael knows some people shy away from eating alpaca meat because of the cuteness of the animals. However, he feels many people are aware of the difficulties of the alpaca industry.
“Most people know that the industry has to go this way. There’s a lot of value in this meat and this animal and to see it go to waste is not our thing,” he said.
The meat is currently available at Buffalo Value Meats in Edmonton, and at several restaurants in the Edmonton area. The meat has also been served at Dine Alberta functions.
“Once people taste the meat, the feedback is positive all the way,” said Michael.
There’s still a lack of knowledge about the meat, but people are slowly becoming more adventurous and are willing to try new foods, he said.