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Australian Free-range Snail Production

Snail Farming Information Service

Sonya Begg 2010

This visual presentation demonstrates the technique of establishing a free-range snail farm in Australia. It explains the value of the biological cycle of breeding snails as the most ethical and sustainable method of raising snails and how to purge and process snails to ensure a high-quality end product. It provides insight on how to produce better tasting snails than those raised in overcrowded enclosures by optimising the welfare and health of snails. It complements the CODE OF PRACTICE Australian Freerange Snail Farming and Australian Free-range Snail MARKETING STRATEGIES Read these documents at www.snailfarming.net Scroll down to Information.

Aim of the Code of Practice

To emphasise that free-range snail production is a sustainable farming practice.

Please read

To highlight free-range snail farming as the most acceptable and moral method of snail production and has a positive influence on the quality of snails. To encourage the application of organic and biodynamic principles to further enhance the biological cycle of raising snails.

To discourage intensive snail growing and fattening in overcrowded conditions in small enclosures or greenhouses (backyard operations).

Reason for free-range snail production

The natural physiological characteristics of snails are enriched by a free-range environment. It it promotes excellent metabolic and respiratory functions for the snails plenty of space and natural air circulation. To understand the needs of the physiology, growth, reproduction, nutrition and snail behavior.

Free-range versus intensive snail production

Improved breeding environment. No overcrowding problems

Higher reproduction rates.

Lower mortality. Clean environment, so no excess slime, faeces or odour. Optimises the health and welfare of the snails. Produces wholesome, consistent sized, top-quality snails. Results in a better product.
Fine example of snails bred in free-range snail production unit

Optimising welfare and health of snails

Space to roam free prevents over-crowding. Benefit of natural ventilation, sun and moon light, rain and the evening dew. Allowed to live according to nature, creating ecological balance between soil, plants and snails. Moral and ethical method of farming snails. Stress-free environment due to the natural biological cycle of breeding snails. Less human handling. Produces large numbers of consistent high-quality snail livestock.
Foraging makes snails more tender

Compare the difference

Snails raised in overcrowded conditions in small enclosures

Snails raised in free-range or open pastures

Snails suitable for free-range snail production in Australia

In Australia the domestic production of edible snails for the commercial market is Cantareus aspersus formerly Helix aspersa first described in Italy by Mller in 1774. It is a terrestrial snail and is herbivorous. It is known in Australia as the common brown garden snail (or petit-gris, meaning little grey). It is one of the most popular snails eaten snail in France, Italy and other European countries.

Basic biology of the snail

Climatic conditions

C. aspersus adapt well to cooler regions up to 750m above sea level and endure frost and snow if given adequate crop shelter. Temperate regions of Australia and New Zealand with yearly temperature within the range minimum -4C to maximum 30C. C. aspersus are induced to aestivate when drought, heat and extreme cold slows their metabolic activity. They are not suitable for breeding in tropical or desert areas of Australia.


Benefits of applying organic principles

Applying organic principles is an integral part of a free-range snail farm.

An organic production system sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and snails.
Crops are planted without the use of synthetic fertilisers. No chemicals are used in the snail fields. Crops are rotated to disrupt any soil-born diseases. Companion planting is encouraged. Crops are planted densely to help prevent weed growth and bird predation.

Finished crops are ploughed back into

the ground as green manure crops.

Physical controls are maintained for

unwanted weeds and pests.

Biological control using insectary

plants attract beneficial bugs.

Working with the appropriate rhythmic

influences of the moon for planting, cultivation, and harvesting snails.

Ecological benefits of natural sun and

moon light, organic soil, rain and the evening dew.

Planting crops by the moon

To follow biodynamic principles, plan the sowing of seeds to coincide with the fertile phases of the moon.
Plans for seeding can be formulated by using lunar phases for sowing seeds so the connection between the solar system and natural biological cycles is maximized. Plant leafy vegetables when the moon is waxing and root vegetables when the moon is waning. Because the lunar phase is said to control the moisture in the soil, you will find that the seeds germinate quickly and the plants grow strong and healthy in a relatively short time.

Use an astrological calendar as an easy guide to planting crops.


Good bug bed Biological control of unwanted plant pests

Improves natural balance and reduce harmful insect pest outbreaks. A good bug bed is an excellent biological method of controlling aphids, scale, red spider mite, caterpillar and other pests without the use of chemicals. It also provides a natural nectar source that attracts the beneficial insects to help control unwanted pests. Some of the plants in the mix include annual and perennial flowers such as marigolds, alyssum, cosmos, Queen Annes lace, red clover, dill and caraway.
The best time to plant a good bug bed is in late winter so its biological control will be successful in controlling any pests that may appear in the crops grown for snails in mid-spring and summer. Plant the good bug bed either inside the perimeter fence or outside it, as long as its close to the snail production area. 13

Minimum space requirements

To ensure viable, commercial snail production, a minimum of 850 square metres to one hectare is needed to breed around 50,000 snails each season. This area allows room for crop and snail rotation and fallow areas.

Position of site

North facing, level to slightly undulating land. Good drainage and protection from prevailing winds.

Preparing the site

Mark out the designated area
and clear land of weeds and other vegetation.

Determine soil acidity by

conducting a soil test.

Add organic soil conditioner

and composted material if necessary.

Include fine grade garden

limestone (calcium carbonate) if necessary. Soil should be slightly alkaline at pH level of around 7.5-8.

Good preparation of the soil during initial establishment will prevent the germination of weed seeds and give a good base for planting of feed and shelter crops for the snails. 16

The perimeter fence

After clearing the land, build the perimeter fence. The perimeter fence is the most important part of construction. It keeps burrowing animals, rodents and snakes and other unwanted pests out of the snail production area. Producers who have not erected an external fence have reported problems with rabbits and rodents. The outside of the galvanized fence must always be completely free of anything that climbing animals may use as a form of entry. All posts and other fencing materials should be attached to the inside surface of the galvanised iron sheets. There must be no holes or gaps so predators (large and very small) are able to get through.

Once the area is clear of all weeds, the perimeter fence is placed around the entire area selected for snail production.
Allow enough room for at least one metre of clear pathways on each side of the perimeter fence.

Constructing the perimeter fence

This fence is important

Construct an external fence of corrugated galvanised iron sheeting around the entire
perimeter of the area designated for the snail production unit. Allow for future internal expansion.

The galvanised sheeting should be at least 85cm in height and buried to a depth
of 30cm.

Setting the perimeter fence into the ground

Use a trenching machine to dig a trench 30cm deep around the perimeter.

Place the galvanized iron sheets in the trench and drive in iron star posts where the sheets meet.

Attach the galvanized sheets butt-joined in the corner with pop-rivets over the right-angled sections of aluminium so there are no gaps in the corners.

Use pop-rivets to join the galvanized sheets and then bolt to the star posts. Use square section 100mm x100mm steel post in the corners. Pop-rivet right-angled sections of aluminum to the 100mm x 100mm posts. Allow enough room for at least one metre of clear pathways on each side of the perimeter fence. 19

Corners of the perimeter fence

Butt the gal-iron panels closely to steel posts in each corner and seal
behind with silicone (see arrow) so there are absolutely no gaps (even small ones) to be seen.

Adding a predator-free gate to perimeter fence

Make two vertical cuts with tin snips
into the middle of one of the galvanised iron panels of the perimeter fence wide enough to allow a rotary hoe to enter.
1 2

The cuts are made from the top edge

to just above ground level, so that this panel can be folded down to make a ramp. (see next page).

Place two flat aluminium strips 75mm

wide and 2mm thick each side of the cut panel on the inside of the fence so that half the strip is pop-riveted to the fixed panel and the other half bolted to the opening panel.

The strips are necessary to

cover the cuts so mice and other small predators cannot get through.

Gate access details

To access the free-range area, the bolts on the opening panel only are undone,
leaving the aluminium strip attached to the fixed panel.

The panel is folded downwards to the ground that forms a temporary ramp for the
rotary hoe to be wheeled into the free-range area.

The ramp should never be left down for any length of time, even when operating
machinery in the free-range area, to prevent predators or other animals entering. Perimeter fence outside surface

Perimeter fence inside surface

Panel folds outwards to make a ramp on outside of fence

Aluminium strips bolted to fixed and cut sides of panel on inside of fence, so there are no gaps

Perimeter fence option

Kangaroos are rarely a problem but if they are, a cyclone wire
extension can be added above the galvanized iron fence.

As an extra precaution, the addition of an electric out-rigger wire is


Crops may offer a tempting meal for kangaroos and rabbits.

Out-rigger hot wire attached to cyclone netting Cyclone netting above galvanised fence The outside of the galvanized area of the perimeter fence should be completely clear of any materials to prevent climbing predators


Internal fencing (snail fields)

Once the perimeter fence is in place start constructing the internal fields. Internal fields or paddocks for housing are fenced with open weave shade cloth or wind break material to provide adequate air circulation and ventilation for essential respiration of the snails. The number of internal fields in this project is 10 to maximise the space and take advantage of north/south layout. Any number of fences can be constructed according to the allocated area.

Plan to join the mesh at the end of field so it can be opened easily to allow rotary hoeing.

NB: All internal fences can be erected at once or if time is an issue, construct only the first field for the breeders (reproduction field) and finish the rest later in the season (optional).


Setting out the internal fences

As a guide, you need three
growing fields for each reproduction field.

Leave one metre of space

between the perimeter fence and one metre of space between all the netting fields.

Place iron posts a

minimum of 2 metres apart.

Reproduction field

Growing field

Good bug bed


Constructing the internal fences

Have a top pocket and two downward facing
flaps sewn into the mesh by the shade cloth supplier while it is still in the roll. (The flaps help prevent snails going over the side).

top pocket and top flap

Incorporate the pocket and flap at the top and thread

pocket with fencing wire so it can be attached to iron posts.

Flaps should measure 20cm and are sewn in as

pleats 40cm of material is allowed for each pleat.
Second flap

Dig a trench around the perimeter of each field. Place iron posts a minimum of 2 metres apart to
support the mesh. Attach mesh to posts with twitching wire.
remainder buried

Roll up and bury the remainder of mesh material into

the trench so the completed fence stands at least 70cm high. (You need to be able to climb over the netting).


Details of internal fencing mesh

Buy good quality open-weave
windbreak or shade cloth mesh with ultra violet block out.
Flap 1 Flap 2

It can be purchased in rolls

measuring 1.8m x 50m.

Cheaper quality mesh is

subject to stretching and damage from the elements.

Use green or cream coloured

mesh (black attracts heat).
Remainder of material buried into the trench

If using shade cloth buy

minimum density usually around 30-50%. Its not shade that is required but good air circulation.

Pocket for wire

Ask the manufacturer of shade

cloth products to sew the flaps in as pleats.

Keep the pathways around
the outside and inside of the perimeter fence and in between internal fields clear of any weeds or vegetation.

Remove the weeds by hand

or if necessary, spray the weeds with an organic herbicide.

Some snails manage to climb

out of the netting enclosures but they will usually return by daylight because of their territorial nature.

However, if there is a clump

of vegetation they are inclined to go only as far as the weeds rather than back to their field.


Water requirements for snail production

Snails love rain and need water for hydration.

The soil needs to be kept moist for egg laying and hatching.
Sufficient water is needed to grow crops successfully. Water keeps the snails active (eating, breeding, growing).

Yes, we like lots of water


An irrigation system is recommended for watering plants and to encourage night-time activity of the snails. Overhead sprinklers, providing light misting, are more suitable than heavy watering to prevent the soil from becoming saturated. Incorporate the irrigation system in the early stage of establishment, either before or after erecting the internal fences.

A filter should be attached to the irrigation system if water is sourced from a dam.


Food for free-range snails

Snails require protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals including extra calcium for shell development. All snails need ad lib access to naturally-grown food, moisture and the advantage of the evening dew.

Plants such as forage brassicas (cabbage family), hybrid turnip, plantain, dandelion, wild turnip, clover and silver beet contain necessary nutriments and are ideal for planting inside fields as a food source and habitat.
Along with growing suitable plants for food, dry organic animal foods such crushed corn, bran, oats, full-fat soy mixture is an added supplement if necessary, and can be given to snails bred for human consumption as long as the formula does not contain antibiotics or any added chemicals.


Suitable food and shelter crops for free-range snails

FOOD White clover (Trifolium repens) (only newly hatched snails)
Strawberry clover (Trifolium fragiferum)
(only newly hatched snails)

SHELTER White clover (Trifolium repens) Strawberry clover (Trifolium


Forage rape (Brassica napus) Forage brassica hybrids (Brassica campestris spp) Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)

Chickory (Cichorium intybus) Silverbeet (Beta vulgaris) Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) White Radish (Raphanus sativus longipinnatus) (root only) Wild Turnip (Brassica rapa spp. Silvestris) Purple-top Turnip (Brassica rapa)


The most accepted plants by free-range snails

Forage brassica Leafy turnip Cabbage and other plants from
the Brassica family

Plantain Silverbeet Lettuce Red or white clover Dandelion Chickory


Supplementary food with fresh vegetables

During times of low feed or high density of juvenile snails, supplementary crops can be grown outside the snail production area, or Green waste leaves such as lettuce and cabbage can be sourced from local (preferably organic) fruit and vegetable suppliers. Purchase second-grade carrots (horse carrots) in 20kg bags as an additional supplement. Carrots are especially useful after snails come out of hibernation and at the start of the breeding season.


Supplementary feeding with grain

A mix of grains such as maize, soybean,
crushed corn and oats with the addition of calcium carbonate (fine grade garden lime) can be sprinkled onto concrete pavers measuring around 40cm x 40cm.

. Place the pavers flush in the ground

randomly in the enclosures for supplementary feeding of cereal grains.

The pavers need to be flush to the level

surface of the ground to prevent snails snails gathering on the sides or underneath the pavers. The pavers can be easily removed later.

Never use wooden boards, polystyrene boxes or rocks in free-range snail fields as it encourages snails to congregate. This results in overcrowding and shell rasping and other problems.

Preparing the seed bed for snail food crops

Open one end of the field and lay
netting flat on the ground to allow a rotary hoe or other equipment to enter.

Prepare the soil by rotary hoeing

and rake over to prepare a seed bed.

Plant seed in rills at 30cm row

spacing. (Rill seeding takes a little more time than broadcasting but germination is better).

Use the end of a broom handle to

make rills and sprinkle the seeds quite heavily into the furrows.

Cover with a thin layer of soil and

then water gently.

Planting the seeds

Planting seeds rather
than seedlings is more economical for large areas that need to be planted densely.

Rotate crops for each

planting so the same plants are not planted in the same area of soil.

Each field can have two

different crops planted that can be rotated the following year e.g. brassica on one side, spinach on the other side then rotated at the next planting.

Plant seeds densely


Selective and controlled breeding of free-range snails

Selective breeding Like any animal raising activity, genetics in snail reproduction plays a major role in homogeneous appearance and consistency in size. Selective breeding is based on the choice of parents with desirable traits to produce improved progeny size first, then colour of shell or flesh. Selective breeding may not be a longterm panacea due to possible genetic throwbacks, so its important to focus on the traits that you are looking for in a snail and this is where controlled breeding comes in.
Fact: The colour of the flesh of snails is most influenced by genetics, not by the food it is given.

Controlled breeding The traits you desire in your snails must be conserved and the undesirable ones suppressed. This is done by repeatedly selecting the best snails from each generation to be the parents of the next. Any mature snails that are undersize must be discarded. Close monitoring for undesirable traits (usually after about three four years) may require an injection of a different strain to reduce any recessive genes that may occur.

Selecting initial breeding stock

Sourcing breeding stock
Initial breeding stock can be sourced from suburban gardens to create a genetic base. Select only healthy-looking snails measuring 30-32mm that display even growth patterns. Big snails breed bigger snails so its important that only large snails are kept for initial breeding. Discard undersize snails. The progeny of this initial breeding stock judged to have the best growth rates and size are chosen for the next batch of breeders.
Make sure the snails selected for breeding have a hard edge on the lips of their shells to indicate maturity.

The Biological cycle of breeding snails The biological cycle starts with
the snails first selected for the initial breeding program.

These are the snails that will

form the foundation for a solid genetic base.

It begins at conception and

finishes when adulthood is reached and the snails starts to produce their own progeny.

When the progeny reach

adulthood, the cycle begins again.

Snails must complete their

biological cycle including winter hibernation, to ensure high fecundity and fertility.


Mating begins in spring but can continue through to autumn if environmental conditions are met. Snails usually mate during the night and can take four to fourteen hours to complete. Around six to ten days after mating, the snail makes a hole in the soil where it lays its eggs in batches of any number from around 30-100 eggs at a time. It then covers the hole with a mixture of soil and mucus before leaving to rest.

C.aspersus is an hermaphrodite and each individual snail possesses both male and female reproductive organs. During mating, mutual fertilisation takes place and one or both snails will usually lay eggs.

Oviposition egg laying

Soil needs to be friable for efficient oviposition

The eggs are round and measure approximately 3mm in diameter. They are pearly white in colour and have a rubbery texture. The eggs usually hatch within three weeks of being laid and the newly hatched baby snails are exact replicas of the adult snails. The frequency of egg laying is subject to temperature, humidity and soil conditions. Its estimated snails can lay several times during the breeding season under favorable environmental conditions let your snails breed at their own pace.

Stocking density
Maximum on ground stocking density
Breeding snails Juvenile snails Adult snails 20 per sq m 140 per sq m 80 per sq m (Reproduction field) (Growing fields) (Holding fields)

Free-range is about the maximum population size of the species that the environment (soil space) can sustain indefinitely. The freedom of enough ground area allows the snails to avoid each others slime trails and enjoy uncongested living space. Over-slimed ground and excess faeces can modify snail behaviour by putting out chemical signals like pheromones detrimental to reproduction and growth rates in terrestrial snails. Snails raised in overcrowded enclosures produce fewer clutches of eggs or yield fewer eggs per clutch resulting in inferior adult snails. If you follow the on ground stocking density recommendations, there will be no over-crowding problems as often is the case in intensive or greenhouse snail farming units. To avoid any unwanted traits that may result in decreased size and fertility from continuous linebreeding, a number of snails from another free-range breeder source can be introduced around every three to five years. 42

Factors that influence the growth of snails

Many factors greatly influence reproduction and the growth of snails

Population density
Food Temperature and moisture Breeding technology. Stress

Snails suffer stress as they are sensitive to noise and vibration, unhygienic and overcrowded conditions, irregular feeding and human handling.

Schedule for managing free-range snail production

This schedule is a guide only. Planting of crops, reproduction and growing differ according to the climate and can be delayed if unsuitable climatic conditions prevail. It usually takes around six to eight weeks for crops to grow to suitable size for introducing or transferring snails FIRST SEASON April to July Clear land and prepare soil. August/September Construct internal fences. Work up soil with addition of garden lime (calcium carbonate) to prepare seed bed in preparation for planting. Plant out field 1 for reproduction. Plant good bug bed.

Erect perimeter fence.


Schedule for managing free-range snail production October (mid) When crops are around 25-30cm
high introduce breeding stock.


Dont introduce new snails if it is

raining and put off irrigating or watering on the first day/evening watering encourages them to escape.

Monitor enclosures for any escapees

and return them to the field.

The newly introduced snails should

only take a few days to settle in and then the fields will become their territory.

Brassica crop about 35-30cm and introducing breeding snails.

Place snails into the plants growing

in the middle of the fields.

Only 20 breeding snails to the square metre please!



Schedule for managing free-range snail production

November Plant out fields 2, 3 and 4 for growing out baby snails when they hatch. February Allow baby snails to grow through March and April.


Towards the end of February and

when all the juvenile snails have been transferred, harvest any mature snails for purging and cooking. Allow juvenile snails to continue growing. March Supply supplementary food for juvenile snails if necessary.

Breeding snails should be mating

and starting to lay eggs. December Hatchlings and baby snails should be visible. Leave to grow until big enough to transfer (about the size of a five-cent piece). January At the end of January/early February, transfer and distribute baby snails that have hatched in field 1 to fields 2, 3 and 4 for growing.

. Clear all snails and old crops

from out field 1 and cover with weed matting.

Early in the month plant out fields

5, 6 and 7 for snails that will be over-wintering.


Schedule for managing free-range snail production

April Harvest any juvenile snails that have reached maturity for purging and cooking.


June At beginning of June, clear out all empty fields and cover with weed matting and leave fallow until ready to plant again.

Keep the largest snails for next

years breeders. May Transfer snails kept for breeding next year to field 5 for over wintering.

Cover the fallow fields with weed

matting to help deter weeds from growing. July/August Snails are in winter hibernation.

Transfer other remaining snails to

fields 6 and 7. This is where the snails will remain for winter hibernation until transfer in spring for final growing out.

Cover the hibernating snails with


Carry out field maintenance.

The second season of production follows the pattern of the first year and for the following years to come. Remember to rotate crops and snails.

Winter hibernation
When the temperature drops below around 5-6C, snails start to close off the opening of their shells. The cover is called an epiphragm and becomes hard and calcareous.

Cover the snail fields with enviro-cloth

(frost guard). It keeps the temperature of the soil up to approximately 7C warmer.

Cover the fallow fields with weed


Snails stay in hibernation until spring and is an important part of the biological cycle.

Snail in hibernation

Enviro-cloth cover

Weed cloth cover


Maintenance management during snail season

Trim crops that start to

go to seed to encourage new growth.

Monitor perimeter
fence for holes that may indicate intrusion of frogs or mice.

Remove any dead or

decaying leaves from crops

Keep pathways clear of weeds. Check internal fences for holes or weeds growing at the base. Return any snails that have climbed to top of internal fences. Check irrigation and spray nozzles. Flush filters.

Snail predators
Lizards, especially blue-tongue lizards.
. Warning

Rodents (rats and mice). Frogs (some varieties). Toads. Ducks.

Currawongs, butcherbirds, chicken hawks, owls and other birds. Beetles and centipedes. Carnivorous snails (shown here).
Predatory snail, Strangesta capillacea. The whorl and shell of this cannibalistic snail is flatter than C. aspersus. It has a definite hole for its umbilicus found on the underside of the shell. 50

Dealing with snail predators

Birds threat from birds is unusual if crops are planted densely. Snails are nocturnal and retreat into the crops during the day, so are not visible to birds. Carnivorous snails make sure there are no carnivorous snails among the collected snails you introduce as initial breeding stock. Frogs remove by hand and relocate. Mice trap and remove. Using baits is not recommended. Lizards are never a problem if the perimeter fence has been constructed as described. Beetles
Carabids members of this beetle family are fast-moving predators and are usually recognized by their prominent mandibles, large round eyes, slender, simple antennae and pungent odor. If seen remove by hand and destroy. Staphylinid beetles known for feeding on larvae and slug and snail eggs. They are sometimes confused with earwigs but do not have pincers. Remove by hand and destroy.


Harvesting snails

Pick up snails by hand and place in

collection bucket, ready for transfer to purging shed or growing fields.

The best time for harvesting is at dawn

and dusk, especially after rain or water misting.

Make sure the shell edge is hard on the snails you pick up.

Tips for harvesting snails

Use a measuring guide for snails
ready for the market because its easy to become snail blind and sizing can become quite confusing.
Measuring guide

Throw out some fresh or grain

supplementary feed. The snails will gather together and can be easily picked up and transferred to other fields or to the purging bins.

Cut notch 30mm wide from piece of wood. Snail should fit snugly in cut out area. If any space between ends of notch and snail, then its not big enough. If its too big to fit its a bonus.

Pick snails off the sides of the netting

fences after rain or watering. Fill a bucket with snails and count them as you go. Next time just fill the bucket to the same level and you will know approximately how many snails you are harvesting or transferring.

Big is better

Soft lip

Hard lip

Mature snails are ready to harvest for the market. They should measure 30mm absolute mimimum measured across the base of the shell. Snails ready for harvesting should have a hard lip (or edge) of shell.

This snail has not reached maturity because the lip of its shell is still soft. It should be left to mature before harvesting.


Purging snails what its all about

Purging is the removal of any soil and grit from the digestive system of the snails. It is the first step in preparing snails for sale. Snails are purged to make sure they are perfectly clean and safe for human consumption.
Dont trim

The snails should remain whole. It is not necessary to trim any part of the snail whorl.

This photo shows how snails should look after purging and processing. Perfectly clean and plump. They are ready to use in recipe of choice.

Process your own snails to ensure quality control

Visceral mass


Where to build the purging pod

The purging area can be built utilizing the whole area of a shed or built as separate pod within an existing shed.


Pleaseto build irrigation cost saving note the purging pod Where

The irrigation shown in the purging buckets was found to be superfluous.

Only a hose with adjustable spray is necessary to wash the buckets and rinse the snails at the same time.


Inside the purging pod

Snails are purged in clean containers without soil.

Here the evaporative cooler is placed on a stand in front of small window at opposite end to stable door that also provides air circulation. The cooler is modified with a float valve and attached to mains water flow and the temperature controller is placed above.

Temperature sensor from temperature controller

Refrigerated air conditioning is not suitable as it dries out the atmosphere.

Install a tap and hose inside the purging pod for washing out bins and floors.

Purging bins
To accommodate the snails during the purging process use 25 litre white plastic bins. These bins are easy to clean and efficient management of snails is maximised.

Drill several holes in the bottom edge

of the bins for water and waste drainage.

Cut a hole in the lid of the bins to

leave a square hole. Cover with wire mesh (about 10mm) and secure with heavy duty staples on the inside of the lids.
Attach a flexible security cord to the side of the rim of the bins to keep the lid in place. (When large numbers of snails congregate together on the lid, it can easily come off).


Constructing the framework for bins

Mount the purging bins on timber frames.
Images next page

Use household guttering along the rear and attached to the wall, to support the
bottom edge of the bucket and for drainage from the buckets.

The timber frame is used to support the bucket while it rests on the guttering. The guttering is sloped to the water outlet. Allow at least a 15 slope between the front timber edge and the guttering at the
back to allow for drainage in the bucket.

The framework holding the purging bins should hold them in a secure position to
prevent the containers from rolling around. Otherwise add chocks on either side of the buckets to keep them secure.


Framework for bins

Slope the frames and guttering towards the drainage outlet

Drainage to outside or collection bin

Slope the bin 15 towards the guttering for drainage. There should be no pooling of water in the bin. Guttering on back wall. Chock for bin support


The purging process

Collect snails from fields and transfer to

clean containers in a cool shed with plenty of air circulation.

The snails are fed a purging mix of

organic unprocessed bran and/or wheat germ for two days.

Water must be available for misting,

cleaning and evaporative cooling (if necessary) to maintain temperature around 16-18C.

They must continue to be purged for

seven days to rid their digestive systems of dirt and grit.

Hygiene in the purging pod

Hygiene in the purging pod is vitally important to maintain a clean environment for providing food for human consumption.

Hose out bins to

remove faeces, uneaten food and any dead snails.

To make sure mice and

other unwanted pests are not attracted to the purging pod, keep the floor clean and contain all cereal food in a covered bin.

Remove any dead and

dying snails. Snails found on their back are dead or dying. If there is a bad smell in the purging pod it usually indicates dead snails.

Thoroughly wash and

scrub bins before new batches of snails are introduced.

How to safely purge snails day-by-day

Harvested snails need to be purged for a total of seven days before processing. The best time to for purging process is late in the afternoon, just before dusk if possible.
DAY 1 Place harvested snails in bins and spray with water only (anytime of the day) DAY 2 and 3 Remove snails carefully from each bin to the lid on shelf below. The snails will leave a lot of greasy, dark faeces so wash the bins well. Sprinkle purging bran on floor of bins replace snails, mist lightly with water, replace lid firmly. Day 4 Remove snails from each bin to the lid on shelf below. Wash out bins thoroughly. Return snails and mist with water. No purging bran. Day 5 and 6 Leave snails alone without food or water.


How to safely purge snails day-by-day

Day 7 Pack snails in lots of 50 into mesh bags and hang in a cool area with plenty of air circulation. Day 8 Cook the the snails in the bags of the morning of the eighth day. At the end of processing, pack into sterilised jars and they are ready to sell.


Keep in and out date chart for purging snails.

Shelf life from day of processing is nine days for fresh snails packed in spring water and refrigerated at 4 degrees.


The reason for processing snails for the market

Because of diverse multicultural influences on Australian cuisine today, many chefs request live snails. Sometimes those who request live snails may feed them on unknown herbs or other food, to keep them longer.

Therefore the guarantee of the healthy, properly purged and contaminant-free snails is compromised and the grower no longer has control of the health of the snails.
You could be putting your business at risk. To ensure optimum quality and a safe, clean productprocess your snails!

Uncooked snails MUST NEVER be eaten.EVER

Raw, uncooked snails can cause serious health risks.


About the preparation of processing snails for sale

The purged snails are cooked and shelled. They are soaked in a mix of half salt and half vinegar to remove slime. Then they are rinsed, scraped and packed with spring water into sterilised jars. Processing snails is a specialised part of producing a topquality fresh snail product. Cutting corners in this process will result in inferior snails.

The finished product should look like the snails in the images shown here. 67

Food processing equipment

For processing 80 dozen snails a days work for one person

Clean kitchen with smooth work benches Floors that can be effectively cleaned Processing area (kitchen) must be free of pests and vermin Stove Exhaust fan Stainless steel sink Separate sink nearby for hand washing Dishwasher Refrigerator Fire extinguisher Stainless steel saucepans Stainless steel or glass bowls Small-pronged fork for snail extraction Refer to food handling practices Sieve for draining snails according to Australian and Paring knife for slime extraction New Zealand Food Standards. Latex gloves used for food handling Standard 3.2.3 Food Premises Glass jars for packing and Equipment (Australia only)

How to process snails

Add 1/4 cup white vinegar and 2 tablespoons salt to 4.5 litres of water in a 5 litre saucepan. Boil.

Make slurry of half salt and half vinegar

to cover the snails and soak for around two hours. Then thoroughly rinse at least three times in cold water.

Drop a bag of 50 snails into the rapidly boiling water. To cook the snails, boil rapidly for five minutes, making sure the water does not go off the boil. The same water can be used for two or three batches (depending on slime). Always have another one or two saucepans ready for the next batches. Drain snails and place in a bowl of cold water. Use a small, two-pronged fork such as a cocktail or fondue fork for shelling the snails. Insert the fork and twist and pull the snail out of the shell in one movement. The whole snail is removed in one piece not stretched or broken.

Carefully scrape off any remaining slime around the lip of the snail with small paring knife. Transfer snails to clean bowl with half water, half white wine and leave overnight in the refrigerator. (The wine helps to neutralise the salt). The following morning, rinse the snails and pack into glass jars containing spring water.
Snails that appear thin or flattened in the centre are inferior and should not be sold. See images on next page. Trim only the snout if it has not retracted after cooking. No other trimming is necessary.


Extracting the snail from the shell

These directions are for a right-handed person. Hold the snail in your left hand (as shown here) and the fork in your right hand.

Insert the fork in the retracted

foot of the snail, twist fork carefully in an anti-clockwise direction while rotating your hand the opposite way, pulling the snail out of the shell in one movement.

Dont push the fork all the way

through to the shell.

The whole snail is removed in

one piece not stretched or broken. This takes practice - do dummy runs before tackling your snails for market.

Quality control
Check processed snails
for quality. They must be clean, plump and no sign of slime.

Wizened body, slime

Full body, plump, clean

The snail on the left is seriously inferior and should never be sold. The other snail is a perfect example of a snails produced in free-range snail production.

The jobs in a free-range snail farm

Preparing the soil
Building the fences Planting crops Selecting snails for reproduction Maintenance of fields Watering/weeding Supplementary feeding Maintenance of paths Trimming crops Rotating crops

Clearing out used fields Transferring snails Harvesting snails Purging snails Processing snails Packing and labelling Invoicing and accounting Marketing snails Packing and delivery of snails

Figures estimated over two-year establishment period using new materials. Establishment costs can be reduced by utilising second-hand materials and using resources that may already be available. Production fields $17,974 (based on production 50,000 snails) Purging shed (and associated costs) $9,780. Snails are seasonal and there is no income for the first year while establishing the breeding program. Achievable return for establishment investment Sell 60 dozen snails a week at $12.50 per dozen for 20 weeks = $15,000 Sell 100 dozen snails a week at $12.50 per dozen for 20 weeks = $25,000 . Two years after initial establishment, overheads are minimal and you will have a good understanding of snail behaviour and production management. Snails and markets can be increased and profits are boosted.

Marketing snails

Sonya Begg Orange NSW Australia March 2010

This document outlines the importance of marketing and strategic planning to provide a focused approach for snail products and services to reach the appropriate target market. Complimentary download from website http://www.snailfarming.net



Development consent from your local Council may be necessary. Check with the Health and Building Department. Preparation of snails must be conducted under the regulatory system of the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ). Laws and rules relating to food processing differ in each local government council and from state to state so its necessary to check the FSANZ website for the most current information. A commercial business requires an Australian Business Number (ABN) and business name registered with the Department of Fair Trading.


Hints for saving money when setting up

Construct the external fence first as its the most expensive
component. Build the area as large as practicable for future expansion.

Start with four internal fields. It doesnt matter if the

whole area is not under snails for the first couple of years.

Before the snail season starts you need only to construct

one reproduction field and three growing fields.

Use second-hand materials to reduce set-up costs.


Health safety

Advice is extended to people with a weakened immune system or who have a history of respiratory or lung disease who are considering working with a combination of soil and snails. The use of potting mix and organic soil has been associated with legionnaires disease, a respiratory infection which, in susceptible individuals such as the elderly and those with particular respiratory conditions, can prove dangerous to humans. Most infections are acquired by inhalation or from open wounds on the skin and people on chronic steroid therapy, those with cancer, organ or bone marrow transplants, or HIV/AIDS are at risk of contracting these infections. Refer to Department of Employment and Workplace Relations for information regarding Occupational Health and Safety in the workplace.

Use mask and gloves when working in organic soil.


If you are serious about farming snails commercially in Australia, free-range or open pasture snail farming offers many benefits compared to intensive snail farming methods because its sustainable. After more than 26 years of research , development and practical snail farming using many different snail farming systems, I can without hesitation, recommend free-range snail farming as the most viable and moral method of snail production. Today, people care about how the snails they eat are raised, as much as how they taste. The best texture and flavour comes only from snails that have raised in open pastures of living vegetables and forage crops. Free-range snail farming is raising snails as nature intended and its sustainable and an accepted, agricultural farming practice. Add some passion and you have a recipe for success.
Footnote: Sonya Begg passed away peacefully at Orange, NSW 31 May 2012.

Sonya Begg Orange NSW Australia


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All rights reserved. No part of this presentation may be reproduced or transmitted in any form electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, circulated or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. All intellectual property is owned by Sonya Begg, Orange NSW Australia. Modification or use of any of the content for any purpose is illegal. Requests to use photos, quotations or extracts from this presentation should be addressed to the author. The information contained in this document is based on knowledge and understanding at the time of writing. It does not warrant or assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed. 80