Cavan Farmer Sets Sights on Revolutionizing Irish Cuisine with Groundbreaking Snail Processing Plant

“Peter Monaghan Pioneers Ireland’s First Large-Scale Snail Processing Facility in Cavan”
Cavan Farmer Sets Sights on Revolutionizing Irish Cuisine with Groundbreaking Snail Processing Plant

Work Begins on Ireland’s First Large-Scale Snail Processing Facility

A long-held dream is set to become a reality for a Cavan farmer this weekend, as work begins on Ireland’s first large-scale snail processing facility. Peter Monaghan, who runs Inis Escargot in Maghera, will produce around 3 million snails on his farm this year. The farmer, who previously featured on Agriland in 2022, also keeps around 20 suckler cows – although he admits this is more for sentimental reasons.

“My father passed away when I was 21 in 2006, he was only 46. I suppose there’s still a huge connection there with my father through the land and through the sucklers. There’s no point in saying I have a huge love for sucklers, I don’t. It’s more of a pastime and to keep that connection on the farm,” he said.

From the age of 12, Peter was exploring ways to diversify the family holding and increase income. For a short time, he considered growing truffles, but the risk involved with such a venture proved to be off-putting. It was in 2012 when Peter first came across snail farming, and after around three years of research, he launched Inis Escargot. It has been a “learning curve” for the farmer as when he set out on his journey there was no training available in Ireland.

The wholesale value for snails ranges from around €4-4.50/kg. “Wholesale has gotten me to where I am. Wholesale has allowed me to learn about my snails, learn how to develop a snail farm and to produce snails, while also getting paid,” Peter said. Along with the European market, Peter believes there are opportunities in the domestic markets in Ireland and the UK for Irish snail farmers, and he is now aiming to increase his private sales.

In January, Peter secured planning permission for a 3,000ft2 snail processing facility with construction now due to begin. He expects that up to 70% of the snails produced in Ireland will be going through the facility next year. The farmer says that it “makes sense” to be processing snails in Ireland as the market return for processed snails ranges from €35/kg to over €100/kg depending on the type of product. He said there is a shortfall in escargot, snail caviar, and liver pate in Europe, which means there will be “a very strong market for the years to come”.

The plant is expected to be fully built and operational by the end of this year. Peter, who is both excited and nervous about this “significant” investment, will also be hiring staff to help with the processing of the snails. “It’s not a flash in the pan. It’s something that has been in the pipeline for quite a long time.” The initial focus of the production facility will be preserving snails in brine. “The main goal here is to get a finished product in a jar. You can preserve snails for up to 24 months in jars. That’s one of the most popular products in Europe at the moment, so that’s probably where we’re aiming for here,” he said.

Peter has also been surprised by the warm reaction of Irish consumers to his produce. During a two-day stint at a Christmas market in Cavan last year, Inis Escargot sold over 1,400 portions, with only two customers politely saying “it wasn’t for them”. “I’ve always been talking about health benefits of snails – high protein, low in fat, little or no cholesterol – but I never believed that I would get that across to Irish people. “I was completely blown away,” the snail farmer said.