Some Kenyan farmers have decided to raise not cows, goats, or pigs, but snails. These giant land mollusks might not be to everyone’s taste. But there’s growing interest among Kenyan farmers in rearing the slimy creatures as a source of food and income.
These gastropods are giant African land snails. The creatures typically grow to be eight inches long! (And some of the largest found are a foot long.)
They’re not the usual kind cultivated in Europe, but food technicians in Kenya predict gourmets around the world will soon enjoy them. Containing protein, iron, calcium, and vitamin A, land snails are already a popular delicacy in West Africa. (But they might be tough to find in the United States. The U.S. restricts importation of this invasive species, which can also carry parasites. That’s why it’s critical to always cook snails well before eating them.)
There’s a market for snail slime as well. Some cosmetics and skin creams are made with the mucus.(Hey! It’s all natural!)
Paul Kinoti is a food technologist at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. He says snail farming is a good agricultural alternative. It costs less to get started and takes less time to care for the creepy-crawlies than for most other animals. And the snails multiply quickly, producing up to 500 eggs in two to three months.
Rose Kabura is an enthusiastic snail farmer. “They are not noisy. They are not smelly. So if you are in urban areas it could be wiser than pigs, cattle,” she says.
It cost Kabura about 150,000 Kenyan shillings ($1,500) to set up her operation. She says a little over two pounds of snail meat goes for around 2,500 Kenyan shillings ($25), making her venture profitable.
She currently cultivates 4,000 snails. Her plan is to keep about 100,000 and supply international markets such as Dubai in the United Arab Emirates where there is demand for both the meat and the slime.
A snail snack might not sound very appetizing to you—yet. But Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, writing for NPR, thinks longingly of “peppered snails with sautéed onions and tomatoes, garlic and chilies” from her childhood in Ghana.
Chowing down on escargot might remind you of the Old Testament laws forbidding the Israelites from eating “unclean” animals like pigs, snakes, or hares. The ceremonial laws demonstrated that Israel was separate from other nations. But Jesus broke down the dividing wall. (Acts 10) Now both Jews and Gentiles can be reconciled to God. We can celebrate with feasts of any food—including pork, shellfish, and even (well-cooked) snails.
Why? God gave humans ingenuity to find ways to provide for themselves and others. That might involve trying something unusual!