Friday, November 20, 2009

Giant Snail Meat to Feed Africa?

Photo courtesy Great Lakes.

African Giant snails – a notoriously invasive species globally – may become the wonder food that helps alleviate malnutrition and feed millions of hungry in Africa. Before everyone recoils and screams “eewww!”, remember that humble French delicacy escargot. A snail is a snail – there’s just a difference in size here.

However, malnutrition and iron deficiency are causing serious health problems and death in countries all across Africa. Those being hit hardest are the elderly and the very young; but, a nutritionist in Nigeria has found a remedy that has the potential to improve their poor diets. Her remedy – African Giant snail pie.

Snail is more nutritious than beef, is far more abundant and tastes great – ask any escargot aficionado.

Ukpong Udofia of the University of Uyo recently completed her research on the nutritional content of the African Giant Snail. The snail is incredibly prevalent in the swamps and forests of Africa. They are also an extremely popular novelty pet in the US,

According to Science Daily:
Snail meat contains protein, fat (mainly polyunsaturated fatty acid), iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, vitamins A, B6, B12, K and folate. It also contains the amino acids arginine and lysine at higher levels than in whole egg. It also contains healthy essential fatty acids such as linoleic and linolenic acids. The high-protein, low-fat content of snail meat makes it a healthy alternative food.

With the snail meat being cheaper, more nutritious and easier to obtain, it could drastically reduce malnutrition in many more communities than beef can. Beef has traditionally been the accepted source of protein and iron.

But, will giant snail pie catch on? Udofia conducted a series of taste tests to see if people would actually eat them. The people who participated overwhelmingly preferred the snail pies to beef pies.

Science Daily tells us:
Udofia and her research team baked pies of both varieties and asked young mothers and their children to try the tasty meal. Most of them preferred the taste and texture of the pies baked with the snail Archachatina marginata to those made with beef. The kids and their mothers judged the snail pies to have a better appearance, texture, and flavor.

Udofia believes she has found an important part of the solution in addressing malnutrition across Africa. She believes the snail can be instrumental in fighting iron-deficiency anemia; and, is the ideal solution because of its availability.

She says, “The land snail is a readily available and affordable source of animal protein, inhabits a lot of the green forest and swamps of most developing countries including Nigeria."

Giant snails are easy to cultivate and already efforts to farm them have been successful. They consume far less water and fewer resources than cows and other traditional protein sources making them efficient and affordable to raise.

Short video:

Via TreeHugger and Science Daily.

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