Upcoming entrepreneur starts exporting her snails to France

FREE RANGE: Eva Milka of Gaelic Escargot. Photo: Photocall

Louise McBride

THE common garden snail is considered a pest by most Irish people – but in a few weeks' time, a Carlow company will start to export Irish snails as a delicacy to France.

Gaelic Escargot, which was founded by Polish woman Eva Milka last February, breeds free-range edible snails on a snail farm in Garryhill, Co Carlow.

"We have a contract in place with a Polish supplier to supply the French market this year," says Milka. "We are currently harvesting the snails and will start to export them this November. Our plan for next year is to sell directly to the French market."

Milka, who moved to Ireland about six years ago, set up her company after learning that it wasn't possible to buy snails here.

"My partner and I are both food lovers," says Milka. "After a visit to France, we returned to Ireland and discovered that you can't buy fresh snail meat here. So we decided to breed a few snails to satisfy our own appetite. We were living in a one-bedroom apartment in Kilkenny at the time so we bred the snails there. It went so well that we decided to make a business out of it."

Milka hopes that her company will export 10 tonnes of Irish snails this year – and 30 tonnes next year. About 95 per cent of the snails will be exported abroad – mainly to France and Italy.

"It will take time to build the Irish market. Eating snails isn't an Irish thing," says Milka. "However, Irish people do travel more and they're open to trying out new foods. Snail meat is very nutritious and low in fat – and it contains almost all the amino acids you need in a day. In many EU countries, snails are considered a delicacy."

Milka believes that a shortage of garden snails in France will ensure there is plenty of demand for Irish snails. "There's a lot of opportunities – you can sell snail eggs for caviar," says Milka. "And snail meat can be used to make facial creams."

Although Milka says the Irish garden snail is no different to the snails found in gardens on the continent, she believes the Irish weather is ideal for breeding them. "Snails love humidity and they love the rain," says Milka.