What can you tell me about snail (escargot) farming?

M.M.MarylandAnswer: Because snails are serious agricultural pests in regions warm enough for them to overwinter, some states regulate the culture or production of certain snail species. Therefore, the first thing to do is to consult with your state Department of Agriculture regarding regulations governing the shipping and/or production of snails. The Resources listed below include a couple of articles that discuss snail production and processing. Several successful snail operations are described along with some of their innovative marketing strategies. Note that marketing is usually the responsibility of the producer. A prospective snail farmer should decide whether he or she has the interest and skills needed for this part of the business as part of the initial enterprise analysis. Comprehensive market research should be completed before committing resources toward production. Another consideration is the amount of time required to reach full production. Beginning with a few hundred breeders, it will take several years to produce enough quantity to sell. It would be wise to begin raising snail as a hobby so that one can learn the “livestock’s” needs, estimate production costs, and fine-tune an efficient production system.The National Agricultural Library (NAL) offers an excellent publication, Raising Snails, that includes information about various species grown for human and animal feed, their environmental requirements (including feeds), and equipment needed. Contacts with established producers and electronic resources as well as a research bibliography are also listed. Another useful publication is distributed by an agency in Saskatchewan. Its focus is on industry and market analysis. Until their supply is gone, copies can be obtained free by calling the number on the cover (306-787-8523).Another book, Snail Production Techniques (1), focuses on the biology and production requirements of the snail. Please contact Frescargot Farms, Inc., to order a copy directly or for information on their other services and materials. They may be able to refer you to snail farmers who are willing to consult with you on your specific questions.Although several sources say the market is excellent, it is important to investigate where the product can be sold locally and at what price. When considering signing up with a snail company that offers a package of services (a package might include breeder animals, information/training, and/or buy-back contracts), here are some ways to assure that they are legitimate.1. The Better Business Bureau keeps records of frauds and complaints against companies. Their website has information including how to figure out whether a deal is a scam. www.bbb.org/alerts/Scam.asp2. Ask for three references to long-standing, satisfied producers. Check them.3. Check references from retailers of the finished snails. 4. Ask for a sample contract and have a lawyer check it out. If you plan to market your product directly to customers, ATTRA’s publication Direct Marketing can provide further information to help in your research. Reference:1) Johnson, R.V. 1988. Snail Production Techniques. Frescargot Farms, Inc., Sanger, CA. 97 p. Available from: Frescargot Farms, Inc. P.O. Box 790 Sanger, CA 93657 (559) 875-2053 [9 a.m. – 5 p.m. PST] Cost: $33, includes shipping and handling. Frescargot Farms, Inc. also offers a video tape on snail production techniques. The video is 40 minutes and costs $40.00. You can receive the publications and video for $65 (incl. shipping & handling).Resources: Kreek, Holger, Marilyn Reid, and Shirley Thorn. 1990. Snail Farming. The Agriculture Development and Diversification Secretariat, Regina, Saskatchewan. Silva, Beth. 1999. Heliculture is hot and markets are many: Snail farms demonstrate that there’s more than one way to sell a snail! Pt. 1. AgVENTURES. February-March. p. 47-48.Silva, Beth. 1999. Heliculture is hot and markets are many: Snail farmers demonstrate that there’s more than one way to sell a snail! Pt. 2. AgVENTURES. April-May. p. 44-46, 61.Thompson, Rebecca and Sheldon Cheney. 2001. Raising Snails. www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/AFSIC_pubs/srb96-05.htm. 39 p.