Blood Charqui in the Peruvian Andes
Recent surveys show that up to 75% of children under three suffer from anemia in the rural Peruvian Highlands. Because of low uptake of government multi-micronutrients, in part due to cultural factors, ACF Spain in Peru (Action Against Hunger) is working to identify traditional production and consumption practices with implications for the availability of iron in the diet as part of an intervention to reduce childhood anemia developed along with Peru’s Ministry of Health.
Fieldworkers have unearthed the almost-forgotten traditional technique of blood “charqui”, that is, the boiling and drying of animal blood for later consumption. Though blood charqui is no longer practiced, preparing blood-based dishes after slaughtering animals (fried blood with potatoes, blood sausage) is highly culturally acceptable, even if consumption has declined as urban influence grows. In the last generation blood has begun to be treated as waste and fed to dogs. Blood drying is a very simple technique, requiring no special resources or infrastructure, especially as families are accustomed to drying meat. Given that animals are infrequently slaughtered (they represent family savings) and the cost of meat is prohibitive, blood charqui is an iron-rich ingredient that can be stored by mothers and cooked especially for toddlers, without extra cost (while, in contrast, dried meat is quickly consumed as a snack by all family members). Drinking blood is seen by older generations as a cure for “weakness” and the idea that consuming blood helps to strengthen children’s blood makes sense within traditional systems of knowledge.
Working with local mothers, ACF is compiling recipes that make use of cooked blood (for example a very popular dessert – blood mousse) and dried blood (dried blood ground into powder can be added to many recipes to increase iron intake). Mothers who have experience in this blood conservation technique are working to re-value this ancestral practice in other regions of the Highlands, carrying out interactive cooking demonstrations.
ACF (Action Against Hunger) Spain
Links and resources:
Indigenous Peoples’ food systems: the many dimensions of culture, diversity and environment for nutrition and health
Comparative Assessment of Indigenous Methods of Sweet Potato Preservation among Smallholder FArmers: Case of Grass, Ash and Soil based Apporoaches in Zimbabwe
FSN Forum discussion: Looking back to effective rural practices ... Did we miss something?