Snake could be a planet-friendly alternative to other meats

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HANOI: While researchers and environmental campaigners have been promoting increased consumption of insects as a food source, there’s another source of protein that is also getting attention at the moment. Recent research indicates that python could play a role in reducing global food insecurity.


Care for some python tartare, served with yuzu sauce on the side? Such a dish may only be hypothetical in Western countries for now, but the main ingredient could one day be a real alternative to beef steak or filet mignon. That’s the conclusion of scientific research published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Conducted jointly by researchers from the Australian universities of Adelaide and Sydney, as well as from Oxford (UK), with the support of a Vietnamese institute, the publication explicitly mentions the agricultural model of a python farm as a solution offering “a flexible and efficient response to global food insecurity.”

According to the authors of this surprising study, “in terms of food and protein conversion ratios, pythons outperform all mainstream agricultural species studied to date.”

In other words, the ratio between the food farmed snakes are fed to grow and the amount of meat they produce when slaughtered surpasses that of many species. The ratio is 1.2 for pythons, compared with 1.5 for salmon, 2.8 for poultry, 6.0 for pork and 10.0 for beef.

These findings were obtained following an experiment with two large species of python, specimens of which were bred on farms in Thailand and Vietnam.


“Pythons grew rapidly over a 12-month period, and females grew faster than males. Food intake and growth rates early in life were strong predictors of total lifetime growth, with daily mass increments ranging from 0.24 to 19.7 g/day for Malayopython reticulatus and 0.24 to 42.6 g/day for Python bivittatus, depending on food intake,” the study outlines.

Snake meat as an alternative to other forms was also found to be promising as these animals continue to put on weight even in fasting conditions. So, in areas of the world where access to water may be interrupted, this type of farming would not suffer.

Of course, other questions remain, as always when it comes to food. One is about ethical issues, at a time when animal welfare is a motivating factor for some consumers who choose to adopt a plant-based diet, and the other is taste. On that question, one needs to look to Asia, specifically Vietnam, where python is considered a delicacy, and Hong Kong.

Elsewhere, particularly in Europe and the USA, cultural preferences are likely to put the brakes on such an initiative, even if science suggests it could be a more sustainable agricultural alternative in this era characterised by climate change.

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