Lot-et-Garonne: From grilled meats to cosmetics, Ferme du Mail grows snails in every sauce

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Stéphane Martinelli is a snail farmer, ie a snail farmer in Sainte-Colombe-de-Villeneuve. With his Ferme du Mail, he supplies restaurants and cosmetics brands.

In this 500 m² greenhouse, built below the road linking Pujols to Sainte-Colombe-de-Villeneuve, production looks good. Here, no berries or green beans, but squirrels. Under the wooden boards arranged in three rows, some 200,000 snails will soon grow peacefully and feed on the weeds. Who will be watching them closely for long weeks is Stéphane Martinelli. At the age of 51, and after a military career, he converted to helicopter farming three years ago. And it is in the country of Villeneuvois that the Audois of origin decided to found the Ferme du Mail. “We are only 300 producers in mainland France, it’s a separate sector”, smiles Stéphane Martinelli.

16,000 tonnes of snails are produced each year in France. The process, similar to oyster farming, includes a part dedicated to reproduction and another part to breeding. “Creators are awakened in February. Then the snail will lay the eggs on the ground and they will stay in their cocoon until they hatch. From birth to consumption, it takes between 4 and 5 months.” Still very small, the grays of Villeneuvois have not yet settled in the Ferme du Mail greenhouse. They are kept in a snail farm, safe from predators.

A snail slime soap made in 47 in works

From the parks in the open to the sign, Stéphane Martinelli must respect a precise protocol. Still a young structure, Ferme du Mail is touring the laboratories in the region to process snails. “Like any mollusc, the slaughter is done with boiling water,” he says. “Before, there is a week of fasting, which reduces the production of drool. Then another week of drying. It should not exceed 15 days, otherwise they will lose weight. » A passage in a court-bouillon to taste, and that’s it. The snail farmer visits the gourmet markets of Villeneuvois – Sainte-Livrade, Fongrave, Villeneuve and Frespech – throughout the summer. With Christmas, it’s his biggest period. New this year for gourmets, it will offer snail sandwiches, in addition to traditional Catalan grilled meats or with parsley and garlic. At the same time, he supplies several restaurants in the Lot valley and also in Bordeaux, with “raw” snails but also products transformed into tapas and eggs mixed with truffle balls.

A complete gastronomic part, Ferme du Mail also stands out with a lesser-known sector: cosmetics. “Snails are like pork: everything is good! advances Stéphane Martinelli. If shells are used as a snack for chickens, it is with snail sludge that the Villeneuvois farmer is diversifying. “The drool is harvested by hand, it’s better for the animal’s welfare. I keep it in jars and then sell it to a company, Apinature, which makes creams. Made up of 85% water, mucus is loaded with elastin and known for its healing powers. La Ferme du Mail is one of the few farms in France to provide it. And the market is there: Stéphane Martinelli’s mollusc cosmetic products have found a clientele in Villeneuvois. So much so that a snail slime soap from Villeneuvois will be produced by the second semester with an artisan from Lavardac. The snail industry is slowly coming out of its shell in Lot-et-Garonne.

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