Snails are consumed in various places of the world, but France is famous for this remarkable delicacy that leaves no one indifferent. Escargots à la Bourguignonne is the most common recipe, where gastropods are cooked in garlic butter and served in their shells as an appetizer. But where are produced all the snails consumed in France? By linking various sources of data, it becomes easier to understand snails production and trade in France.
Snails farms in France
191 farms produce Escargots in France as of 2014. Farms can take various forms, from agricultural colleges to bigger farmhouses. However the French administration discern 2 types of farms in France. First the EU compliant farms, then the ones with an exemption from EU laws. Fortunately, no farm is exempted of sanitary controls, but EU compliance is mandatory to export the production to Europe.
Snail farming is a difficult business as the small animals are very sensitive to their environment. Humidity and heat are the most important factors, and drought or cold can ruin a farm quickly. It is then normal to find more snails farms in hot and rainy places.
The rains number on this chart averages efficient rains per year from 1999 to 2010. Efficient rains is the part of total rainwater contributing to run-off.
Annual production of snails
The French Ministère de l’Agriculture publishes annual half-finished snails tons. This number is rather inaccurate as it includes the weights of side juices and packaging. However, the half-finished production seems to decrease since 2005. With a production of 956 tons in 2010, farms produce an average of 5 tons of half-finished product yearly.
Snails imports & exports in France
Production in France does not satisfy the voracious appetite of French consumers who mostly rely on imports. Imports peak just before the end of the year as Escargots remains a traditional festive dish, largely consumed during Christmas. Regarding exports, they stay low and mostly go to usual France partners like Germany, Italy or Spain.
Foreign producers declared over 6000 tons of snails to the French customs from May 2013 to March 2014. Greece and Turkey provide the most of French imports, before Belgium and eastern European countries. In these Mediterranean states, farmers continuously irrigate fields with fogging systems to avoid drought.
If you have already eaten Escargots in France, chances are you did not eat French ones. Because France does not consider snails as meat, restaurant have no obligation to clearly display the origins of Escargots served. Moreover, no label in France ensure the origin of snails, which would probably help local production. A public notice already brought the subject to the attention of the French parliament.