Snails have been a source of food for thousands of years.Really since the beginning of mankind people have used them as part of their diet.But the Romans were probably the first to farm snails in an organised system and are responsible for spreading some species,like Helix pomatia,over Europe. According to Pliny the elder it was a man called Fulvius Hirpinus who started farming snails in 50 B.C. at Tarquinium.His snail pens were called "cochlearia" and there were different species kept there.One pen held albulae from Reate,another one "very big snails"(Helix lucorum?) from Illyria,yet another one African snails and a fourth one snails from Soletum.To fatten them them they were fed with meal and wine. Varro recommended that the farm should be surrounded by a ditch to save the expense of a special slave to catch the escapees. In the middle-ages snails were stocked at monasteries to be used in times of food shortage.Because snails were considered to be neither fish nor meat they could be eaten during lent. In the 1800's French or Italian immigrants brought snails with them to The USA(California).Ofcourse some of the snails escaped and spread throughout the states. Before commercial snailfarming(heliciculture) started,snails were collected from the wild and vineyards. But today it is against the law in many countries to gather snails,especially Helix pomatia. In the 20th century the first real snailfarms started to appear.Most of them are in France and Italy,but there are also farms in Spain,Austria,Germany,The Netherlands,Australia,Brasil,Africa and China. And in many other countries there are pioneers looking for an alternative for the ordinary farm. The most common snail to be used in heliciculture is Helix pomatia,but often Helix aspersa(Cryptomphalus aspersus)is used as a substitute. Other edible species are(in fact all snails are edible)Helix aperta, Helix lucorum and Otala lactea. Achatina species(Giant African Landsnails)are eaten in Africa (see picture on the right:snailfarming in Ghana) and are also being sold in England(Brixton Market,London). Sometimes people are being caught trying to smuggle them into the country when they arrive from Africa.
For more indepth info about snailfarming follow this link:raising snails