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In my setting there is a civilization that has a decisive advantage in a fundamentally agrarian world; it is consistently more efficient in its choices of crops and livestock.

Rodents reproduce faster than any other mammal order, and some of them can get quite large, such as the beavers, muskrat and of course capybara.

Would a suitably large rodent (whether it’s a capybara or selectively bred beaver isn’t super important) be an efficient and healthy food source for humans?

Requirements:

•Must reproduce faster than pigs and mature faster.

•Must produce an economically viable amount of meat.

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    $\begingroup$ I've seen guinea pigs raise for food in the Andes. $\endgroup$ – Patricia Shanahan Feb 17 at 7:43
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    $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… these guys are already domesticated/farmed on a small scale. $\endgroup$ – Borgh Feb 17 at 7:49
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    $\begingroup$ Coypu - not only meat but also furs. European hamster (that is larger than regular hamster) went almost exsting in Poland during WWII because people was eating it. $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Feb 17 at 8:39
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    $\begingroup$ @SZCZERZO KŁY I’ve actually trapped Coypu in Washington State. We call them Nutria where I’m from, and honestly I might try a bite next time, I suppose you could breed them to be bigger $\endgroup$ – NixonCranium Feb 17 at 9:01
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    $\begingroup$ The plot of the book, and movie, King Rat. Group of US Soldiers sell rat meat to Allied POWs held by Japanese Army. $\endgroup$ – EDL Feb 17 at 16:49
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In Latin America we have capybaras )we call them chigûiros in Colombia), it's not that common in cities to eat rodents since natives are the ones who eat them, but it seems capybaras have low fat and cholesterol compared to other animals:

Is in Spanish, try using translator

Also, capybaras have a fast gestation period: 150 days for 2-8 pups and each individual matures after 18 months.

Capybara's life cycle

So, for you first answer: no, capybaras mature slower than a pig, which requires 100 days to get 100 kg, while the capybara only weights around 35 to 66 kgs, so you're wasting a lot of time breeding capybaras instead of regular pigs unless you want a less fatty meat.

For the second answer: it's profitable, but not for mass production

It's more like a cultural dish

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure about the 100 days for pigs? I'm really no pig farmer at all, but the sources that I found (like this, this or this) mention market ages of 6 months or more. And this is for pigs that were probably bred for the fastest growth possible. $\endgroup$ – Schmuddi Feb 18 at 17:31
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Yes, if your civilization has done a few things over the course of its history.

  1. The rodents are domesticated. Your people have been breeding them for centuries. So like modern pigs, modern chickens and modern cattle, they have been selectively bred to grow fast (deliberately or accidentally). They therefore no longer resemble their wild ancestors in terms of exacly how many babies they produce per litter, how often they have a litter or how fast the youngsters grow to maturity. In fact, just as there are different breeds of cattle today, your people may have produced all sorts of different breeds with different purposes: milk cattle, beef cattle, draught animals to haul carts and ploughs, fighting bulls for the bullring, breeds which can walk hundreds of miles to market without losing much weight, and so on.
  2. Your people are very efficient at knowing the optimum feeding regime for your rodents. I recall being told (back in the 80s) that Argentinian grass-fed cattle took 6 years to reach slaughter weight, but UK grass and silage fed cattle took 2 years to reach slaughter weight. The reason was the UK's wet, soggy climate was better for growing nutritious grass than the pampas, but in the latter the cattle roamed in a more 'natural' way. In your world, people have worked what to feed your rodents on to maximise their growth rate. They might also do other things such as castrating the males, so they don't 'waste' energy on fighting and mating, and can put that energy into growth.
  3. Your world has rodents that our world has lost. Perhaps something like the giant prehistoric rodent Josephoartigasia did not become extinct in their world and was domesticated.
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