Climate change could take snails off the menu in France

The Federation of Conserved Foods, a French industry group that represents 139 food manufacturers, has warned that the snails could soon become a thing of the past.

European snail harvests are increasingly blighted by climate change, posing a problem for consumers in France.
European snail harvests are increasingly blighted by climate change, posing a problem for consumers in France. (Photo by Alex HALADA / AFP)

Hunter gatherers in a land that was yet to be named France were eating snails as far back as the 8,000 years ago. Today the country goes through about 30,000 tonnes of them every year. 

But the future of this delicacy does not look bright according to the Federation of Conserved Foods (la Fiac). 

“All the signals are dire,” it said.

“While the harvests in recent years were already insufficient, the quantities will still not be enough in 2022.” 

The reasons for this are multiple, but there are two that stand out in particular. 

The first is climate change.

“The gathering [of snails] this year was strongly disrupted because of erratic variations in temperatures,” warns La Fiac. 

“The late persistence of cold temperatures followed by the brutal arrival of heat led to a rapid spurt of grass growth, quickly making it difficult to gather snails and reducing the quantities collected.”

As the climate continues to destabilise traditional weather patterns, this issue will only get worse. 

Labour supply 

The majority of snails consumed in France are harvested, wild, in the forests of central Europe and the Balkans. 

Wages have not kept up with soaring levels of inflation in this part of the world so many have abandoned the snail harvesting trade in pursuit of more profitable activities. 

The lack of staff means that French importers cannot outsource as much of the processing work to the countries where the snails are collected. This in turn has a knock-on effect on prices. 

Rising fuel costs, packaging costs and butter costs are also translating into ever greater snail prices on menus. 

Around 1,500 people work in the snail industry in France. Their future looks bleak. 


Member comments

  1. The snail farming industry in France has largely been strangled by red tape of their own making. It is virtually impossible (and financially crippling) to enter this industry under current terms. You end up with the current bizarre situation of claims being made that French farmed snails are the best, yet they constitute less than 10% of what is consumed as there are so few snail farmers remaining.

    The only snails that are particularly climate sensitive are the Burgundy (Roman) snails that are rarely farmed in France. The Gros Gris and Petit Gris (more commonly farmed here) do well enough across a broad range of climates and the country could and should be self-sufficient in the production of these, except for the onerous and downright stupid conditions surrounding snail farming (set by the farmers themselves for the most part).

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France introduces stricter wine rules for restaurants, bars and cafés

The French government has introduced stricter wine rules for restaurants, bars and cafés, which must now display full information on the origins of all wines they serve.

France introduces stricter wine rules for restaurants, bars and cafés

If you’re ordering a bottle of wine it’s likely that the menu will state where the wine comes from, but previously this was not always the case for wines bought by the glass or carafe.

Most French cafés and restaurants offer wine by the glass as well as pitchers or carafes or various sizes, which are also sometimes referred to as un pot, particularly in the east of France.

Thanks to a new law that came into effect on July 24th, if you order any of these, the bar or restaurant is obliged to display full information on where the wine comes from, and its protected geographical origin (AOP) if it has one.

Any establishments that sell wine – whether for consumption on or off the premises – must display the information in full and in writing. Failure to do so makes them liable to a €1,500 fine. 

The law is a revision of the Loi relative à la transparence de l’information sur les produits agricoles et alimentaires, which came into force in 2020 and is intended to protect French farmers and producers.

French vocab

Une bouteille de vin rouge, s’il vous plaît –  a bottle of red wine, please

Une bouteille de vin blanc – a bottle of white wine

Un pichet de vin rosé – a pitcher of rosé wine

Une carafe de vin – a pitcher of wine

Pichet and carafe are just different words for the same thing, and if you want tap water (as opposed to mineral water) with your meal, ask for un pichet d’eau or une carafe d’eau. Carafes usually come in varying sizes, the most common being 50cl or 25cl.

Cinqante centilitres – 50cl, or two thirds of a bottle

Vingt-cinq centilitres – 25cl, or one third of a bottle

Un pot lyonnais – if you’re in or around Lyon, you might see wine listed on the menu as by the pot – this comes in a carafe that is shaped like a small bottle with a very thick glass bottom. The classic pot lyonnais holds exactly 46 centilitres, or just over half a bottle  

Un verre de vin rouge – a glass of red wine 

Encore de vin, s’il vous plaît – another wine, please (the ‘encore‘ lets your server know that you want another glass/bottle/pitcher of the same wine)

Vin bio – organic wine

Vin naturel – wine produced by ‘natural’ methods 

Bio, natural or biodynamic: 5 things to know about organic wine in France

Qui va goûter? – Who will taste? The standard question that your server will ask when they bring the bottle of wine to your table

Un pot-de-vin – a bribe. Not a wine term as such, but if you hear reference to un pot-de-vin it means a bribe. These days bribes are usually paid in cash, but the origins of the term are pretty clear.