Friends, colleagues: we have a snail problem. The unfortunate gastropod news comes courtesy of The Guardian, which reports that France’s 400-plus snail farms are currently saddled with thousands of pounds of unsold snails due to pandemic dining and event cancellations. Too much of a good thing, non?
During a normal year, The Guardian reports, French snail farmers (also known as heliculturists) might do 70% of their business during the holiday season, at which time they typically cater to the escargot-crazed masses. But in 2020, restaurant and Christmas market closures left snail farmers with lots of snails and nowhere to put them.
Food & Wine cites French heliculturist Bruno Thienot, who told L’est Républicain that he’s trying to ditch some 2,000 pounds of surplus snails by putting flyers in people’s mailboxes to advertise his product. “I had never experienced a period like this,” Thienot said. “I am used to selling my canned food and meat on the main markets. But everything was canceled because of the pandemic.”
Making snail matters worse, heliculturists haven’t received any government assistance the way other small farms and businesses have. Four heliculture representatives wrote to French officials in the fall to “alert them to snail farmers’ difficulties,” according to The Guardian. Now, agriculture ministry officials say the snail farmers will benefit from emergency financial aid to the country’s “festive sector.” (After all, what’s more festive than a snail?)
For now, snail farmers are getting creative with their surplus. The Guardian cites one snail farmer, Hubert Hédoin, who plans to pickle or can his leftover snails. Nothing like a pickled snail to get you through a hard winter.