Guinea pigs dressed up for dinner

Guinea pigs wearing colourful dresses have participated in a fashion show at the third annual Festival of the Guinea Pig in Huacho, Peru, before being served up for dinner.

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Each year the festival celebrates the guinea pig — with breeders vying for the top prize for raising the fattest, fastest, most fashionable or tastiest rodent.

Peru is famous for its Machu Picchu ruins, its roaming llamas, and of course, as far as cuisine goes, its ceviche (raw seafood marinated in a citrus-based sauce).

VIDEO: Guinea Pig eating festival

But this weekend, the humble guinea pig took centre stage as a delicacy at the Third Guinea Pig Festival.

To mark the centrality of the dish on the Andean plate, women from various Peruvian communities squared off at the festival in which the rodent was eaten as well as feted as a fashion item in the small coastal town of Huacho near Lima on Sunday.

The women came with guinea pigs in hand and prepared the animal every which way — boiled, fried and almost always whole, teeth, nails and all.

One of the aims of the competition is to generate other parts of the world it's viewed exclusively as a pet.

“The guinea pig has been eaten as food Peru since the time of the Incas, and ever since the guinea pig was

domesticated, it has been a principal food source, and it's really quite good; it's a meat without grease, but with a

lot of proteins,” Pilar Fox, a well-known chef and contest judge, said.

Unlike larger animals, the guinea pig grows quickly and is relatively inexpensive, making it a staple also in many

rural communities in Peru.

It is said to taste like a cross between dark chicken meat and rabbit.

“It's tasty, very tasty,” said one of the food tasters at the festival, Adriana Cuba.

Others at the contest dressed their animals in tiny outfits, often to match theirs.

Rodents that won the road race and fashion competitions were spared the frying pan.

“I dressed my guinea pig as if it were a countryside woman who picks alfalfa all day to give out to its babies,” said Carmela Cuna, one of the rural woman who attended the competition.

Fox, the chef, also said the guinea pig has come a long way, recently pushing its furry rump onto menus at some

world-class restaurants.

“We value the guinea pig because it provides food for children, and for pregnant mothers,” a woman from the Curay community said.