Is Alpaca meat the next big thing? A Hot Dish taste test

Photo by Kelly Dwyer
Broiled Alpaca leg steaks from La Pacos in Minnesota
On Wednesday, the Hot Dish introduced you to the Welcks, a Princeton couple who recently launched a business selling alpaca meat. We promised to deliver a review of the products available from La Pacos, and answer the question: Will anybody actually want to eat this stuff?

Let's begin with the dried meat products:
Jerky and Meat Sticks

Hillbilly Style Alpaca Jerky

La Pacos offers two kinds of jerky: Hillbilly Style and Appalachian Style. It's unclear why the fascination with extras from Deliverance but no matter. This jerky is as good or better than any beef variety on the pegboard at the local convenience store. One immediate visual clue that this is not beef is the absence of white ribbons of fat. The meat is a rich, dark maroon color and peels and tears identically to others. The jerky is satisfyingly chewy but not tough, and it retains a bit of moisture. Hillbilly Style provides more of a spice kick and boasts a soothingly shorter list of ingredients.

Old World Style Alpaca Meat Sticks
The meat sticks provide an even clearer contrast to similar products made of beef.  Where there's a person holding a Slim Jim, there's a person with greasy fingers and a sheen on their lips. Not so with these meat sticks.

At first bite, this meat stick seems to taste like pretty much every other meat stick. But these sticks don't leave grease on the hands or a waxy tallow buildup on the lips. The jalapeno variety is deliciously kicky, with visible chunks of bright green, fresh jalapeno peppers. These sticks do contain 3 percent pork, whose presence was explained as a binding agent. The Hot Dish provided samples to more than a dozen people and received zero negative responses. Alpaca sticks proved especially popular among sportsmen, for reasons we'll explain later.

Polish Sausage

Photo by Kelly Dwyer
Alpaca Polish sausage

The Hot Dish was unable to sample the bratwurst in time for this post (a human can only eat so much meat!), but we were able to sample the Polish sausage, pictured above. We broiled these sausages, which was likely a mistake. The filling is nicely and densely packed, and the casing provides a crisp snap to each bite. There are very few white chunks of gristly material.  This is when the realization begins to dawn: Alpaca meat is very similar to venison.

Next page: Alpaca burgers and steaks--and where to get them

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