A recent study suggests an unlikely food source may be at a grocery store near you at some point in the future: farm-raised pythons. The eyebrow-raising research paper, written by a team of South African and Australian scientists and published in the journal Scientific Reports, promotes the biological and economic feasibility of farming captive pythons to feed the masses. 

The paper’s authors tout python farming as a viable alternative to traditional livestock, calling it “sustainable and resilient.” And they say that farming snakes for food may be necessary given the “compounding impacts [from] infectious diseases, diminishing natural resources, and climate change.”

“We really are running out of resources, while at the same time, the demand for high quality nutrients is going up,” researcher Patrick Aust told ABC News. “[Pythons have an] extreme biology and evolutionary slant toward extreme resource and energy efficiency.”

The authors go on to claim that “reptile meat is not unlike chicken: high in protein, low in saturated fats.” They add that pythons can eat “waste meat” that other critters won’t and are more efficient at converting food into body mass than salmon, pigs, cows, chicken, and even, crickets. As farm animals, snakes require very little water, they write, and can go for long periods of time without eating—all with little impact to their size or health.

“A python can live off the dew that forms on its scales. In the morning, it just drinks off its scales and that’s enough,” researcher Daniel Natusch told The Washington Post. “Theoretically you could just stop feeding [them] for a year.”

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In conducting their study, the team looked at the production of over 4,600 captive Burmese and reticulated pythons in Southeast Asia. Experts say that further analysis is needed to determine if farmed python meat could actually catch on in the Western Hemisphere. They’ll also need to asses the environmental impacts of commercial snake production—including the possibility of introducing non-native reptiles into natural ecosystems. “We urgently need more research into the agricultural potential of reptiles,” the paper concludes, “and the most effective and humane ways to produce this novel group of livestock animals.”