The demand for fresh snails (escargots) in restaurants in the USA is increasing year on year, and snail farmers are struggling to keep up with demand. One snail farmer in the US has seen annual sales double since first opening for business in 2017.
Fresh snails taste much nicer than the canned, pre-cooked varieties that are usually available in the US. The main issue in the US is that it is illegal for restaurants or food firms to import fresh snails. Dead or alive, snails are considered to be a pest or invasive species.
Trade figures are showing that US consumption of snails rose 42% to 300 tonnes in 2018, which means this is an amazing opportunity for anyone in the US looking to start a successful business. There are very few snail farms in the US, and the USDA doesn’t permit selling live snails across US states. The global market of wholesale snail sales is worth approximately $117M a year, and this makes it one of the best niche markets to jump in to.
Anyone wanting to start a snail farm in the US would need to work very closely with the USDA to get regulatory approval.
Among other things, this includes making sure the greenhouses are snail-proof, and that they cannot escape. Installing an airlock door, all drain holes being grated, and the greenhouse being surrounded by gravel which is regularly sprayed with snail repellent.
Snails have been around for more than 500 million years, and have a complicated life cycle so snail farmers have to nurture them all year round. As a culinary delight and nutrition source, snails are a very adaptable ingredient, very high in protein and have a low environmental impact as livestock.
Fresh raw snails have to be kept chilled at all times, and have a shelf-life of just one week. This is a world away from canned snails, which can last for years if the tin is unopened. But the flavour and texture of fresh snails makes it worth every effort.
For more information on how to start breeding snails or start a snail farm, check our Escargot Farming Guide.
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