FIGHTING the tag of cute hobby farm animals, the alpaca industry is making a mark on dinner plates.
A venture between Australia’s oldest privately owned alpaca stud Illawarra Alpacas and fellow South Coast producers Millpaca stud has seen a burgeoning restaurant trade for the meat.
Under the name Illawarra Prime Alpaca, Ian Davison’s Cambewarra stud is seeking the industry’s commercial development with Millpaca’s Ian Frith, Berry.
While both studs initially bred for fleece, they’ve recognised that, as livestock, alpacas must also be bred for meat to be commercially viable.
But the hurdle they had to overcome was the cooking process.
Mr Frith believes chefs have to be trained properly to cook the meat due to its low fat content.
So he joined forces with Hungry Duck restaurant chef and owner David Campbell, Berry.
Together they are “taking alpaca to the people,” training chefs and offering foodies an experience to taste the newest meat on the chopping block.
“David has really been our pioneer,” Mr Frith said.
“I love alpaca capaccio, ribs, osso bucco from the neck, and the sausages are moving really well.”
He said the joint enterprise was averaging five carcases a week.
Mr Campbell made the decision to put alpaca on the menu because it was “something a bit different”.
So far, it has been popular with diners.
“We have had really positive feedback, and people keep coming back specifically to try the alpaca,” he said.
“We are often asked where they can get alpaca to cook at home – we then have to break it to them that they can’t buy it so they’ll have to keep coming back.”
For more on the growing alpaca meat market, as well profiles on an heirloom tomato grower and a report on the Farming Small Areas Expo, see Farming Small Areas – free with the December 8 issue of The Land.
… the real star of this month’s Sydney International Food Festival was the alpaca. … We use it for a carpaccio and a South American adobo braise using the neck, shoulders and shank, custom tailored to our modern Asian style with some lotus and Korean chilli paste.
FORGET international chefs such as David Tanis and Alex Atala, the real star of this month’s Sydney International Food Festival was the alpaca.
Sadly, it’s nothing to do with that cartoonishly cute face and a fleece resembling an overstuffed pair of jodhpurs — rather, these South American camelids are being eyed up for the dinner table.
“It was the hit ingredient of the chefs’ showcase dinners,” festival director Joanna Savill tells Food Detective. “I think it’s going to be the next big thing in its own little way.”
Alpaca is already on the menu at a handful of NSW restaurants, according to Ian Frith of Millpaca Farm in Berry who, with fellow alpaca breeder Ian Davison of Illawarra Alpacas, has recently diversified his stud farm to produce meat for sale to restaurants. After supplying about 50 animals for festival dinners, Frith says several chefs have asked to trial the product, a leaner, lighter meat similar to veal.
“We’re not selling it retail; it must go through trained chefs,” says Frith, who adds that the lack of fat makes it a particularly difficult meat to work with, requiring an experienced hand to do it justice.
Chef David Campbell at Berry’s Hungry Duck has had alpaca on his menu for six months.
“There was a bit of a stigma attached at first as a lot of people use alpacas as herd protectors, and they’re almost considered a pet, but once we explained that these are bred for consumption, people were a bit more understanding of it,” he says. “We use it for a carpaccio and a South American adobo braise using the neck, shoulders and shank, custom tailored to our modern Asian style with some lotus and Korean chilli paste.”
Peruvian Alejandro Saravia (see Short Order) is also using it at his new restaurant, Morena. “I like that it’s light in flavour, unlike lamb that can be too strong or heavy for some people,” Saravia says. “Alpaca is the best seller on my menu. I’m cooking it sous vide, 60 degrees for eight hours, and using the juices in the bag to make a jus with Peruvian chillies.”
Detective would be all for trying alpaca herself if it didn’t have a face so spookily reminiscent of Angelina Jolie.
Alpaca are best known for their cute looks and gossamer fine fleece, not their eco-friendly soft hooves and virtually fat-free flesh. Read more …