Snail meat popularly called “Congo meat” is consumed in many countries around the world. Meanwhile in some countries, snails are considered a delicacy for the rich because of its nutritional benefits.
Snail meat, also called escargot, is high in protein and iron, and contains almost all of the amino acids needed for human nutrition.
In Nigeria for instance, Snail is a popular meat for many Nigerians in the especially in the rural areas mostly in the rain forest belt, where it is collected from the wild. The potentials for its domestication and commercialization in the country has not been fully harnessed or exploited, although many studies and experience has shown that snails Farming is highly profitable and productive if well managed with best practices.
Nutritionally snail’s meat is high in protein (12 – 16%) and Iron (45 – 50%), low in fat (0.5 – 0.08%) and contains almost all the amino acids needed by man, being also rich in vitamins. Apart from the nutritional benefits it is also known to have medicinal properties and usages.
In Nigeria, from the rural perspective snails have become an income earner to the rural dwellers who are making a living from picking snails from the wild (Rain forest) and gathering to sell in the markets and roadside. They usually collect snails in the raining season when snails are mostly found.
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Snails are gastropod molluscs that are found on land as well as in water. Of all the species found in the wild, not all are edible of course. Among land snails, Helix pomatia and Helix aspersa are commonly consumed. Ampullariidae, also known as apple snails, are freshwater snails eaten in many Asian countries.
Several species of sea snails such as whelks and abalones are also consumed throughout the world. Snails meat are neutral to taste and take on the flavour of the ingredients they are cooked with. Their texture is firm and slightly chewy, comparable to that of squids and mussels.
On an average, snail meat contain 16 grams of protein per 100 grams of edible snail meat. This protein is considered to be of high quality because it contains all the essential amino acids required by the human body.
The protein content of snail meat is similar to the protein found in pork and beef, but snail meats come with a much lower fat content. In addition to containing significant sources of protein and low amounts of fat, snail meats are also good sources of iron, calcium, Vitamin A, and a number of other minerals.
Many claim that snails taste of nothing, with the texture of an old inner tube, and that they’re just rubbery vehicles for bubbling garlic butter. The tinned varieties do tend to be cheaper and rather more chewy, but the fresh versions can be as delicate as a sprinkling of spring dew.
Snail meats consist of blood to 20 to 50 %, the sea hare’s (Aplysia) body weight is about 75 % blood. Most snails’ blood pigment is haemocyanin. Contrary to haemoglobin, used by vertebrates, haemocyanin works on a complex with copper as oxygen binding atom.
Like any other animals suitable for human consumption, land snails can be farmed as livestock. Rearing snails for human consumption is known as heliciculture. Snails are typically reared in pens. Depending on the size of the business, farmers may have different pens for different stages in the life-cycle of the snails.
Activities involved in snail farming include feeding, maintaining hygienic conditions in the pen, checking soil quality, and recording development. It is important to ensure that pens are escape-proof because snails that escape the farm turn into agricultural pests and can have severe consequences for natural ecosystems.
Farmed snails are fed a diet of leaves, fruits, flowers, and even kitchen scraps. Rearing snails requires a constant temperature, high humidity, and a fairly constant day and night rhythm throughout the year. This means that farmers outside tropical and subtropical regions need to invest in climate control systems for their (usually indoor) snail farms.
Snail Meat Nutrition
For snails have come out of their shells and are basking in the glory of being the new star superfood.
And here are six reasons why snails should be blazing a trail to your plate.
“Although they’re not going to be high on my top 10 list of favourite foods,” admits nutritionist Rob Hobson from Healthspan. “Snails do provide a low calorie source of protein (unless you drench them in butter)”.
Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle, and is also better at filling you up than carbs and fat. Many people look to seafood as an easy source of protein, but actually, snails have more.
Hobson adds that snail meats are also a good source of iron, essential for building red blood cells and carrying energy around the body. A lack of iron can lead to extreme fatigue and anaemia.
3. Vitamin B12
Often cited as the ‘energy vitamin’, B12 is needed for making red blood cells, keeping the nervous system healthy, releasing energy from the food we eat and processing folic acid. Luckily, snails have lots of it.
Snail meats are also a good source of magnesium, which our bodies need to maintain a normal blood pressure, strengthen bones and also keep your heartbeat regular.
We don’t need much selenium in our bodies, but we do need some to keep a healthy immune system and to protect cells against damage. And yes, snails contain selenium.
Ah, the much-feted, heart-loving fatty acids. “Snails also supply a little Omega-3,” says Hobson, “which is good news for your heart.”
“Although, he adds, “they contain nowhere near the levels found in oily fish.”
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