Processing and Consumption of Snail Meat

1.         Processing

1.1       Harvesting and storage

The age and size at which snails should be collected from the snailery obviously depends on the farming objective: whether the snails are grown for personal use or for the market. Snails grown for personal use can be harvested according to the farmer’s needs; whereas customer preferences dictate the optimum size and consequently age of snails harvested for the market.

Snails usually need to grow for at least one year to reach their proper size and weight. It is recommended to harvest snails by the time they reach two years, because after this age their rate of growth slows down.

Snails are picked by hand, at nightfall, when they become active and are easier to find and collect. They need to be put carefully into a basket, box, crate or sack, to avoid damaging the shell, which would lower their market value. Never put more than 10 kg snails together in whatever storage receptacle you use, to avoid cracking or crushing the shells in the lower layers.

Snails, whether for household consumption or for the market, can be stored safely for up to 6-8 weeks in a box or crate, if you do not want to collect them daily. First put a 5 cm layer of sawdust or finely cut corncob leaves on the bottom of the box; place over this a layer of snails, then another 3 cm layer of sawdust, and so on, ending with a covering layer.

The box should be kept in a cool, shaded place, well protected from predators and poachers. Snails can be transported to the market in baskets, boxes or sacks, but always take care not to damage them by putting too many together or on top of each other (max.10 kg).

Processing and Consumption of Snail Meat
A Snail

1.2       Processing of Snail Meat

Freshly gathered snails have just eaten (except if collected when aestivating or hibernating). They can be used directly, but all faeces and dirt must be removed in the kitchen. It is easier and more hygienic to have them defecate before use. Store them in a basket or sack in a cool, shaded place without food for four days, to enable them to discharge all aliments in their intestinal tract. They are now ready for washing, boiling and dressing.

1.3       Washing

Put snails in a bucket with water, adding some salt and a dash of vinegar. Lemon or lime juice can be used instead of vinegar. Soon, the snails will start to discharge their slime: a milky, whitish liquid. Throw away the water and repeat the washing procedure until the water remains clear.

1.4       Boiling

After washing, put snails into boiling water, again adding some salt and vinegar, or lime or lemon juice, and boil thoroughly for at least 5 minutes. Achatina Fulica (but possibly the other GALS species as well) is reported to be an intermediate vector of the Rat Lungworm and other diseases potentially lethal to humans.

Improperly cooked Achatina Fulica meat may act as a major source of human infection in places where it is commonly eaten by people, such as Taiwan. Thorough boiling is essential!

1.5       Dressing

Extract the snail from its shell, draining off the body fluid or haemolymph (unless local recipes call for its use), remove the viscera (heart, stomach, kidney, liver, intestines) and cut off the head. The meat is now ready for boiling, stewing, frying or whatever cooking technique your local snail recipe book calls for.

Processing and Consumption of Snail Meat
A Snail

2.                     Consumption

2.1       Composition and Nutritive Value

The data provided below originate from Nigerian studies of the GALS species Archachatina Marginata. It can only be assumed that the composition and nutritive value of the other two GALS species discussed in this Agrodok are more or less the same.

Table 2: Approximate Dressing Percentage of Archachatina Marginata

Total live weight of snail 100%

Meat c. 40% (the edible foot of the snail)

Shell c. 30%

Viscera c. 17%

Body Fluid c. 13% (Haemolymph)

Table 3: Approximate Carcass Composition (including moisture)

Crude protein 60->80% (Depending on diet of the snails)

Fat 1.3-1.7%

Ash 1.3-1.4%

As far as protein is concerned, snail meat compares well with traditional sources of protein like chicken meat, pork or beef.

A Nigerian study on mineral composition of snail flesh showed that values of iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium were consistently high; while cobalt, lead and copper indicators of dangerous pollution were not detected. Snail meat complements the minor and trace elements required for proper growth and development in humans, so it is recommended for regular consumption.

2.2       Palatability

In Ghana Achatina Achatina is considered the most prized species for consumption, followed by Archachatina Marginata and Achatina Fulica, in order of preference.

sources mention Achatina Fulica as being slightly inferior to the edible European snails because it is ‘rubbery’ and often ‘swampy tasting’. However, when highly flavored with garlic, chopped and stuffed into shells of the genuine escargot, most people eating the African snails are effectively deceived!

On the other hand, a French website offers tinned Achatina Fulica ‘escargot’ (around 10 g/snail) including shells possibly to make them resemble the real escargot). Taiwanese sites offer tinned Achatina Fulica snails for sale in Taiwan and China. The species is also sold as a local food source in Seoul, Korea.

Processing and Consumption of Snail Meat
Snails Feeding

Some Traditional Recipes:

In Ghana snails are used to prepare a variety of dishes, including soups, sauces and kebab. The big snails (locally referred to as ‘Atope’) are preferred for soups. These range in weight from 120 to 450g.

However, juvenile snails (referred to as ‘Nwawaa’ in Ghana, weighing between 20 and 40 g) are preferred for sauces.

The meat is removed from the shell and the tubular appendages attached to the mantle are cut off. The meat is washed repeatedly to remove slimy substances and dirt. It is then put in a saucepan, with enough water to cover it, and boiled.

The water is then drained and the meat is washed a second time in cold water. Snail kebabs are prepared from spiced, boiled or fried snails.

For preparing light soup (Ghana) and pepper soup (Nigeria), already cooked snail meat is added to a variety of meats (for example, beef, mutton or fish) and sliced onions, and then steamed for about 10-15 minutes. Water is added to the steamed meat and brought to the boil.

A blended vegetable mixture (including peppers and tomatoes) and salt are added, and the mixture is cooked until it thickens slightly. The soup can be served with such foods as fufu, rice, kenkey (corn dough), yam and bread. Other soups, such as palm-nut soup, groundnut soup and cocoyam leaf soup (also known as ‘Green green’ in Ghana), can be prepared similarly.

Reference: Snail Farmers Group

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