Snakes on a plate: Why you should be eating python

Snakes on a plate: Why you should be eating python
Farming snakes such as this Burmese python for food is more sustainable than conventional livestock farming
Farming snakes such as this Burmese python for food is more sustainable than conventional livestock farming
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Farming snakes such as this Burmese python for food is more sustainable than conventional livestock farming
Farming snakes such as this Burmese python for food is more sustainable than conventional livestock farming

Farming snakes as a high-protein, low-fat food source may be a more sustainable way of taking the pressure off conventional livestock farming which has been ravaged by climate change and diminishing natural resources, new research suggests.

Many conventional livestock systems don’t satisfy sustainability and/or resilience criteria and contribute to worsening environmental conditions. So, scientists have started looking for novel food sources with less environmental impact. According to a new study led by researchers at Macquarie University, Australia, one such novel food source is snakes, specifically pythons.

“Climate change, disease and diminishing natural resources are all ramping up pressure on conventional livestock and plant crops, with dire effects on many people in low-income countries already suffering acute protein deficiency,” said Dan Natusch, an honorary research fellow in Macquarie’s School of Natural Sciences and the study’s lead author.

The researchers studied the growth patterns of two python species, reticulated and Burmese pythons, in two Southeast Asian commercial snake farms: one in central Thailand and the other in southern Vietnam.

“While large-scale python farming is well-established in Asia, it has received little attention from mainstream agricultural scientists,” Natusch said. “Snakes require minimal water and can even live off the dew that settles on their scales in the morning. They need very little food and will eat rodents and other pests attacking food crops. And they were a delicacy, historically, in many places.”

The researchers assessed the growth rates of juvenile snakes and conducted feeding experiments on some of them to determine what influenced growth. Feeding the baby pythons ‘sausages’ containing waste protein from meat and fish offcuts resulted in fast growth rates with no apparent impact on health.

“We found pythons grew rapidly to reach ‘slaughter weight’ within their first year after hatching,” said Natusch.

They could also digest soy and other vegetable protein hidden among the meat.

“It’s a bit like hiding broccoli in the meatballs to get your kids to eat their veggies,” said Natusch. “We showed that snake farms can effectively convert a lot of agricultural waste into protein while producing relatively little waste.”

When processed, around 82% of a python’s live weight was usable, including the high-protein meat for food, skin for leather, and the fat (snake oil) and gall bladder (snake bile) for medicinal purposes. Compared to mammals, pound for pound, reptiles produce far fewer greenhouse gases, and their digestive systems produce almost no water waste and far less solid waste.

“There are clear economic and adaptability benefits to farmers who raise pythons rather than raising pigs,” said co-author Rick Shine, a professor in the School of Natural Sciences. “Birds and mammals waste about 90 percent of the energy from the food they eat, simply [by] maintaining a constant body temperature. But cold-blood animals like reptiles just find a spot in the sun to get warm. They are hugely more efficient at turning the food they eat into more flesh and body tissue than any warm-blooded creature ever could.”

The researchers say that their study demonstrates the efficiency of snakes in turning waste into usable products, and highlights the opportunities to farm snakes for food in countries where snake meat is culturally acceptable. But, they don’t have high hopes that Western countries will adopt python farming any time soon.

“I think it will be a long time before you see python burgers served up at your favorite local restaurant,” said Shine.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: Macquarie University

I think this raises some interesting points but I see some flaws in the argument. Being cold blooded and needing less energy for heat is useful but much of their diet is endothermic which re-introduces many of the issues the researchers hope to help solve if the snakes food source is to also be farm raised. It is one additional degree of separation: (crops > animals > humans) vs (crops > animals > snakes > humans). It makes more sense if volume is low enough where their food source is mostly just wild rodents eating crops but it doesn't scale as high as modern US agriculture. Side note: I have been so conditioned with the word "delicacy" that it just means "stuff I would never eat" at this point.
I’m a vegetarian who would’ve willing to try it, just to gauge its viability re western tastes, but Daishi raises an important point which should be addressed which is scaleability. Seems like it would be easier to nudge the western palette towards GMO fungi that simulate meat (like meati™️ or various yeast like foodstuffs) as well as easier to scale.
In terms of energy efficiency, it is most efficient to eat plant matter.
Then meat which has consumed plant matter.
Meat which survives on 'waste' meat can only be inefficient.
We might get a short reptile food fad, but it will not be sustained because it will not be sustainable (or cost-effective).
I've eaten snake meat before, and it ain't bad. We used to hunt rattlesnakes in NoCal for that purpose. Breaded and fried, it's pretty tasty. I see this as a solution for the explosion of pythons in Florida.
Geologists, when working in the field, often have to eat from the land, and the ones with whom I have discussed eating snake all have liked it. I know a Canadian who was a vegan, and was always pale and looked unhealthy. A few years later I saw him and he looked good, and I asked what had changed, and he said that he had discovered meat, especially snake! He now "lusts after snake" since he says it is delicious.
Most animals taste of what they eat so I don't know how this applies to snake meat. But I'm not rushing out to find some.
The gentleman who posted here who caught rattlesnake in Northern California and ate it breaded and fried, wouldn't that change the taste totally?
DJ's "Feed Me Doggie"
Steveofthenw, I have just got to tell my wife that the pythons in Florida are exploding! Does DeSanta Claws know that? (He's probably taking credit for feeding them TNT, ain't he?) "It's a brave new world after all!"
Steven has the relevant answer because the big picture isn't future python meat sources, its only strong value is in open season hunting on that invasive problem in Florida and anywhere snakes are not welcome.
Adrian Akau
Python jerky is already being sold on Amazon: "Our Python Jerky is made in small batches in the USA to meet the highest quality standards. We are committed to delivering the very best jerky to your table."
Put that ground python next to the ground turkey, see which one people pick. If you're tired of turkey, you'll take the snake.
Spud Murphy
And here's me waiting for the human race to evolve past the caveman stage. Isn't ever going to happen, it seems...
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