The Italian snail-farming industry has grown by more than 325% over 20 years, driven by a boom in eating snail-egg "caviar" and snail-slime-based cosmetics (which have little-to-no scientific basis) — slime sales are up 46% over the past ten months.
The snail-farmers have adopted a "cruelty free" method of slime-extraction, using steam rather than salt and vinegar to force excretions from the snails.
Slime quality depends on environmental conditions, and breeders regulate what the snails eat, how they are kept and how the slime is extracted, so products can certified in certain ways.
Italy's International Heliciculture Association recently patented a new machine, called the Muller One, which extracts snail slime by immersing the creatures in a special steam bath.
"It is essentially a spa for snails," said Mr Sampo. "We raise them naturally, feed them only vegetable matter and then extract the slime with water that contains ozone, which kills all the bacteria. The snails are not harmed."
(via We Make Money Not Art)