New business comes out of its shell
AT RONNACHMORE Farm on Islay they are celebrating the first harvest of a new ingredient to add to the impressive list of food from Argyll and the islands: snails.
Scott Chance and his wife Wendy have brought their first successful crop of snails to harvest at their new business, Scotsnail, in what they believe is the first commercial snail farm in Scotland and one of very few free-range growers in the UK.
‘We have successfully reared our first batch of free-range edible snails – the large Helix
Aspersa Maxima, often called the gros gris in France, and its smaller relation, the petit gris,’ said Scott. The snails are just in time for selling on to restaurants and the general public for the annual French celebration of the release of Beaujolais Nouveau.
This is a small, sampling, harvest of snails and the couple hope for a bigger crop next year. Their fi rst attempt at growing snails last year proved to be a steep learning curve.
‘Snails are at the bottom of the food chain. A lot of things want to eat snails: frogs, mice and birds,’ said Scott.
He added that many growers use controlled indoor systems to get a continuous supply.
‘I believe the meat is of poorer quality and is more labour intensive and, with humidity and temperature controls, is also expensive. Growing snails in a free-range paddock means the area can be planted up with a selection of greens and fodder to ensure the snails can grow and mature happily. The advantage over wild collection is the knowledge that each snail is young and the meat will be tasty and tender.’
Scott and Wendy started growing snails when investigating farm production possibilities on a small area; they needed to find a product that could withstand the salty winds blowing in from the loch, be happy in a cooler climate and enjoy a lot of rain.
The distribution network set up to serve Islay’s seafood industry will give Scotsnail ready access to markets across Europe and the UK.
Scott said: ‘Snails are perfect. In fact, their needs are quite simple: good quality feed, moist environment and not too hot.
‘The other plus is you don’t need a dog to round them up.’
Scott Chance is breeding snails for discerning diners.