Peru is the top exporter of fishmeal and fish oil (FMFO) worldwide and is responsible for half and a third of global production, respectively. Landings of "anchoveta" (Engraulis ringens) are used nearly exclusively for FMFO production, despite a proactive national food policy aimed at favoring the direct human consumption of this inexpensive species. It may be surprising that in a country where malnutrition and caloric deficit constitute major issues, a low-priced and highly nutritious fish such as anchovy does not have stronger domestic demand as a food fish. Here, we review and assess eight potential politico-socio-economic processes that can explain this situation. The main explanation are dietary habits, the preference for broiler and the higher profit from anchovy sold as feed fish compared to its use as a food fish due to historically high FMFO prices, boosted by an increasing demand for aquaculture in a context of finite forage and trash fish resources. In addition, the recent introduction of an individual quota system has shifted bargaining power from processors to fishers, thereby increasing competition for the raw material. This competition results in an increase in anchovy prices offered by the feed fish industry due to its onshore processing overcapacity, which is detrimental to the food fish industry. In the end, although the dominant use of anchovy for fish feed is largely explained by integrating these market mechanisms and other minor ones, this use raises other issues, such as rent redistribution through public policies, employment, equitability and utility (low social costs), and resource management (threats to ecosystems or global change). Different policy scenarios are proposed in relation to these issues. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.