Snails are traditionally bred for gastronomic purposes, but currently heliculture has developed a new and important source of income: the collection of slime. If the goodness of snail meat has been renowned for centuries, only recently has the world of cosmetics discovered the extraordinary virtues of the secretion of gastropods.
The snails emit foam under small stresses, they do not have to be slaughtered to have this precious substance.
This means that the collection and sale of mucus is compatible with that of meat production and that it is possible to make drool several times from each snail. In this way the helicopters company not only earns money from the sale of snails but also adds the source of income due to the drool.
How to collect snail slime
All snails produce drool: for the gastropod it is a form of defense and aid to movement. The secretion of foamy mucus allows the snail to move without injuring itself in its characteristic "walking on the stomach", as well as helping the suction effect that allows it to climb even on vertical surfaces. The most valuable slime is that of the Helix Aspersa species, it is advisable to choose this type of snail if the purpose of breeding is also to obtain and market the slime.
There are two methods of collecting snail slime:
- Manual harvest: snails are taken and washed to remove earth and other impurities, then they are lightly pressed with the hands, so that they begin to drool. In this way, drool is collected very slowly: in several hours a few centiliters of mucus are obtained.
- Specific extractor: there are several machines that are designed to stimulate the snails, stimulating them to foam and collecting their secretions.
Once the foam has been extracted it must be filtered and microfiltered. In collecting the drool you need to have a bit of ethics: there are machines that exaggerate the molluscs making them suffer, up to often causing their death. By choosing the extractor, it must be taken into account that the process is cruelty free, that is, that it stimulates the snails in a gentle way. This is also in the interest of the heliculturist, since the well-treated snails will return to being usable for the collection of drool after a rest period and can subsequently also be sold for gastronomic use.
The company La Snaaca di Ambra Cantoni has developed an extractor of its own invention that works up to 50 kilos of snails and allows you to obtain drool equal to 10% of the weight of the snails. You can ask for information by writing to [email protected] (just say you have found the contact on Orto Da Coltivare).
How to market the drool
The trade in drool is booming and very profitable: today the cosmetic properties of the substance are starting to be renowned and there is a high sensitivity towards natural products. For this reason, the slime is valued at up to a hundred euros per liter and is a product that has many sales outlets, is becoming one of the main sources of income for heliciculture.
Possible sales channels for mucus:
- Cosmetic laboratories and companies, especially those that have natural product lines.
- Pharmaceutical companies. The drool is also a panacea for the treatment of various diseases and the substances it contains are useful for making drugs.
- Creation of own cosmetic lines. The slime can also be used directly pure, or it can be inserted in cosmetics of which it remains the main element and active ingredient. This allows the grower to develop their own products to be put on the market, increasing profits with direct sales.
Article written by Matteo Cereda with the technical contribution of Ambra Cantoni, by La Lumaca, expert in heliciculture.