The snail species Helix aspersa underpins Australia’s commercial edible snail production. Also known as Cantareus asperses, this snail was first described in Italy in 1774. Commonly known in Australia as the ‘common brown garden snail’ or ‘petit-gris’ (meaning little grey), H. aspersa is a herbivorous, terrestrial snail. It is thought to have been introduced into Australia in the 1890s and is one of the most popular snails eaten in France, Italy and other European countries. It is the only snail allowed for farming in Australia and the importation of other species of snail is prohibited under Australia’s quarantine laws.
In Australia, snails are raised in enclosed pens or crates to protect them from predators. Traditionally, there are two types of snail farming, free-range and intensive. Free-range involves raising snails in an enclosure that is open to the environment, however, in Australia the prevalence of predators is considered one of the major reasons this style of snail farming has not succeeded. The most successful snail farming in Australia has been in crates or small pens that are fully enclosed.
Snails are relatively easy to grow, do not require much space, and with the potential increase in demand, may provide an attractive diversification option. However, it should be noted that the market for snails is underdeveloped and tends to be confined to production areas where relationships between growers and restaurateurs have been established. Therefore thorough research on potential market opportunities should be undertaken prior to the establishment of a snail farm. It should also be noted that in Australia farmers may also need to prepare the snail meat for sale, so facilities may be needed that meet the comprehensive range of food safety requirements as specified by the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.
Facts and figures
- Snails (escargot) have been eaten by humans for thousands of years
- There is a view that snails are underutilised as a food source in Australia
- The Helix aspersa, or common brown garden snail, underpins Australia’s edible snail production
- Snails are raised in enclosed pens to protect them from predators
- The market for snails is not well developed and it is considered a cottage industry, therefore market research is essential prior to establishment of new farms
- Snails can be processed on-farm or sold live direct to restaurants and consumers
- Thousands of tonnes of canned snails are imported into Australia each year representing a barrier to growing the industry locally
There are snail farms located in most states of Australia providing fresh snails to the domestic market (as well as some small-scale export activity). Many industry participants consider snails a cottage industry, however demand is rising and in some areas, demand outstrips supply.