Snakes on a Plate? Study Shows Python Meat a Low-Effort, Sustainable Protein Source

March 15, 2024
Pythons raised as livestock in Asian farming operations were found to be low-effort producers of a significant amount of meat per animal, according to research.

Plants, mushrooms, insects — how about snakes for your next protein meal? According to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, python meat presents an interesting opportunity for a global food supply that will need more, low-effort, highly sustainable protein sources in the coming decades.

Researchers studied python farming operations and found benefits not seen in other animal production supply chains, including the ability of the snakes to maintain their muscle mass despite fasting for extended periods of time, the low amount of space and water required to farm them, and the minimal waste produced. In addition, pythons grow large quickly and don’t have a lot of extraneous, non-meat parts to them (legs, wings, etc.).

Additionally, pythons are extremely good converters of food and protein, making the most of very little, according to one of the co-authors of the study, quoted in a news report.

Pythons are already farmed in Asia, but the rest of the world has yet to catch on. The study noted that reptile meat is not unlike chicken in that it is high in protein and low in saturated fats. Researchers monitored growth rates of pythons at two farms in Thailand and Vietnam, discovering that, despite receiving food only once per week, the pythons added up to 1.6 ounces per day over 12 months. Pythons were fed thawed frozen chicken, wild-caught rodents, fishmeal, chicken pellets and waste products from pork production.

Edible meat made up 82% of the pythons’ body mass by the end of the experiment — by comparison, the study said, a cow has about 63% of its body weight in harvestable meat.

About the Author

Andy Hanacek | Senior Editor

Andy Hanacek has covered meat, poultry, bakery and snack foods as a B2B editor for nearly 20 years, and has toured hundreds of processing plants and food companies, sharing stories of innovation and technological advancement throughout the food supply chain. In 2018, he won a Folio:Eddie Award for his unique "From the Editor's Desk" video blogs, and he has brought home additional awards from Folio and ASBPE over the years. In addition, Hanacek led the Meat Industry Hall of Fame for several years and was vice president of communications for We R Food Safety, a food safety software and consulting company.

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