It must be 30 years ago when I first read an article in The Wall Street Journal about a man in my hometown who was a snail farmer. It obviously made a lasting impression and was something I thought about frequently.

Heliculture is one of the names for the breeding of snails and there are different types of snails which one can rear. For human consumption the land snails are the ones I will be referring to in this post.

Although it is easy to think of the snail as only a pest which eats your leaves in the garden, these have been a food source in many countries for thousands of years. Even now it is still consumed in Europe and Africa and imported to the USA.

So what does it entail raising snails?

Similar things as with any livestock, an enclosure, food, and a market to sell them. I've look on the internet for various pens and other types of enclosures and there are many methods. Some people use a shallow (about 2' high ) pen. See the video below. The problem with this method is the chance of escape. Having your livestock eat your crops is counter productive, as you can imagine. Giving your snails a healthy and nutritious environment will keep the where you want them. 

Many people use a strip of copper banding across the top to keep the snails from climbing out of their enclosures.

I have also seen people who have the equivalent of a poly tunnel with snails in them.

One of my favorites is this lady in Africa in the video below. She just puts hers in plastic bowls. She says these are the perfect livestock as they don't stink and they don't make noise.
 
Take a look at  two different methods used. 




Although snails may be easy to care for and may seem like the perfect livestock, you have to have a market for them.

Where I live in Brazil, this was promoted as a viable farm options some years ago. Unfortunately what happened is people became disillusioned and gave up, releasing their snails which of course wreaked havoc on the local area.  In the USA, there is a pest problem with the giant land snail as a result of them being imported as a potential money maker. 

Every year where I live there is an annual 'Escargot Festival' which I assume was started by the French who moved here. However, the population and demand for snails isn't enough to sustain a year round production of snails.


I think to have livestock where there is a constant market for, you have to be raising something which the local population are willing to eat and pay for. This is why the woman in the video will probably make a success of her business. She is in an area where they are familiar with eating land snails and there is a need for additional protein in their diets.


Before beginning a snail farm, you need to know more about the types of snails available to you, your potential market and the soil conditions required to raise your snails to the optimum weight in the shortest possible times.  


Picture
By J. Patrick Fischer (photo selfmade) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
 


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