Like all commercially farmed animals in the agricultural business, snails have been and continue to be exploited by farmers whose main focus is dollar amounts. Perhaps more so for snails. Their size and characteristics surely don’t work well in their favor. Does the average farmer, or even consumer, feel empathy for a crowded or stressed snail? Most likely, the answer is, no.
But there are farmers out there who love these little snails and want them to have the best life possible until they are sold for consumption. The previous acceptable conditions have been re-assessed by some in Australia and New Zealand. Several farmers with the help of an independent veterinarian have developed a new code of conduct called The Australian Free-range Snail Farming Code of Practice. The newer code was written to urge free-range snail farming and focuses on how farming sustainably has a positive affect on snail production overall. Similar to the tenants of free-range farming, if you want tastier escargot, source your appetizer from a free range snail farm.
The Code encourages the natural biological cycle cycles through the implementation of several organic principles that will generate superior breeding production and a higher rate of growth in the snails. Because there is overall less handling and less chemicals used, the stress level of the snails is greatly reduced. A happier snail makes for a bigger healthier snail which in turn can lead to more profit because of the quality and taste of the snail. Pretty straightforward.
The Code also supports using more humane ways of processing the snail. It lists the ways in which commercial farmers process their snails, to make clear- what not to do. For example, on factory farms where snails are over crowded to begin with, live snails are soaked in salted water to be killed. Others methods deemed unacceptable are placing the snails that are actively crawling or moving around in boiling water and even placing the snails in cold water before its boiled is deemed inhumane.
The humane process that the code supports is a process which involves purging the snails and then slowly immobilizing them in nets before placing them in a boiler containing water that is kept at a boil. Purging is a practice that requires the snails to eat a diet of wheat and bran for six days to clear their digestive tract of any soil or grit. The immobilization process is completed by placing the snails in netting bags and using cool natural air circulation or in a cool room for 24 hours. This slows their metabolism considerably so that they are almost in a hibernating state. Placing them in the boiler after immobilization causes instant death and has been deemed the most humane way to kill the snails.
Sure, snails are small critters, easily ignored, yet advocates of good food can stand behind this practice of humane, free range snail farming in order to bring better food to the table.
To learn more about free range snail farming and read the Code of Practice visit: