Python meat could soon be on the menu as a sustainable option | Science | News

Environmentalists are thinking about adding python meat to our meals, and Dr Daniel Natusch knows all about it. The researcher has been served up python in almost every way imaginable.

He believes eating snakes could be more environmentally friendly than producing poultry, pigs or cattle. Dr Natusch in fact believes not enough people have tried pyton.

Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “I’ve had it barbecued. I’ve had it in satay skewers. I’ve had it in curries. I’ve had it with Indigenous people in the wilds of the Malaysian jungle.

“I’ve even done it myself as biltong uncooked meats that are dried with herbs.”

At the risk of using an age-old cliche, Dr Natusch says python meat tastes a lot like chicken. Although, anyone wanting to test that could have to travel to places like Thailand or Vietnam.

That is where Dr Natusch and fellow researcher Dr Patrick Aust check python farms. They co-authored a paper saying that farming these big snakes could be good for places like southern Africa.

It could help with food problems and be better for the planet than normal farm animals. Possible candidates for consumption include the Burmese python, reticulated python and the southern African rock python.

Dr Natusch said: “These pythons can live for almost a month with no water. They can live off the water that sets on their scales in the morning. They can go for almost a year without eating

“We’re not necessarily saying everyone should stop eating beef and turn to pythons but there needs to be a conversation about them having a more prominent place in the agricultural mix.”

Dr Natusch, the chair of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Snake Specialist Group, said pythons have other advantages. However the researcher, who lives in Cairns in Queensland where crocodile meat is easy to get, doesn’t think Australians are ready to eat python yet.

He added: “If humanity is serious about genuinely implementing sustainable practices and future-proofing ourselves, we need to start thinking outside the box.

“But I totally get that your average Australian is probably going to turn up their nose at a bit of python steak.”

In Australia, commercial python farming is less likely as there are fewer suitable species, Natusch explains. “We have the pygmy python over in the Pilbara the world’s smallest species of python, that’s not much bigger than your index finger,” he said.

“There aren’t too many Australian candidates you’d get an enormous fillet off maybe a diamond python or carpet python.”

Lin Schwarzkopf, head of zoology and ecology at James Cook University, stated that a detailed look at all aspects of raising pythons is needed before we decide if eating them is a good idea. She explained: “There’s a basic problem with feeding people predators that I don’t see how you’re getting rid of with the pythons.”

She also says that while pythons grow quickly, it is not an easy thing to do. The zoologist added: “They need to change their body temperature voluntarily. So you have to provide them with warm areas and cooler areas. And that’s a difficult thing to do on an industrial scale, and it’s very expensive.”

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