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Python meat is a more sustainable food than chicken or beef

A new study led by a team of scientists from Macquarie University in Sydney has proposed adding pythons to our diets as a way to combat environmental degradation. 

Pythons have a minimal environmental impact

The experts argue that python meat consumption is a greener alternative to traditional meats such as beef, chicken, or fish, due to the low maintenance and rapid growth rates of pythons in farming conditions. 

Unlike traditional livestock, which require extensive land and resources, pythons have a minimal impact on natural resources, making them an environmentally friendly option.

Key insights into python growth 

Study lead author Daniel Natusch and his team conducted research on the growth rates of 4,601 large pythons, specifically focusing on the reticulated python and the Burmese python, across farms in Thailand and Vietnam. 

These non-venomous python species are already cultivated for their skin and meat in Asia. The study revealed that these pythons exhibit significant growth over a 12-month period with minimal feeding, a stark contrast to the frequent feeding requirements of chickens and cows.

“They still grew, and at faster rates than chickens, pigs, cows, crickets, and salmon fed more frequently,” Natusch said. He further noted that pythons can endure long periods without food, highlighting their resilience and efficiency as a source of protein, especially in a future marked by increasing climatic, economic, and resource challenges.

Tasty and versatile python meat 

Natusch, who has personally consumed python meat on multiple occasions, describes it as “tasty and versatile,” likening its flavor to chicken and noting its adaptability in various dishes. 

“I’ve had it barbecued, as satay skewers, and in curries,” he said. “I’ve also eaten it as Biltong (uncooked but dried meat with herbs). At risk of sounding cliché, it’s a bit like chicken.” 

Potential as a sustainable food source

Despite python meat being a common food item in Southeast Asian countries, it remains relatively rare in Western cuisine. However, initiatives like the Everglades Pizza in Florida, featuring Burmese python, have introduced the meat to new audiences, showcasing its potential as a sustainable food source.

Python meat is praised for its nutritional value, being low in fat and calories while rich in protein, nutrients, and essential amino acids. The findings of this study suggest that commercial python farming could be a viable and eco-friendly option for global food production, though further research is needed to determine the most effective and humane farming practices.

Solution to global food insecurity 

The study highlights the established nature of python farming in Asia and its overlooked potential by mainstream agricultural science. 

The researchers advocate for the exploration of python farming as a solution to global food insecurity, citing the python’s ability to maintain body condition through metabolic regulation during fasting periods as a key advantage in volatile environments.

This innovative approach to food production not only offers a sustainable alternative to conventional meat sources but also calls for a reevaluation of global dietary choices in the face of environmental challenges.

The study is published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.


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