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Mythbuster: Only tourists eat snails and frogs legs

Fact or Fake? In this regular column, we look at the ‘truths’ that everyone ‘knows’ about France

This is false

We can still call the French Froggies as, while not everyone’s favourite dish, frogs legs are still eaten in quantity as is the other intrinsically French dish, snails. Both depend on imports to meet demand.

Cuisses de grenouilles first became popular in the 16th century when the frogs were hunted in the wild. In the 1970s this was made illegal because of diminishing numbers.

Farming them is hard and since 2010 just two frog farms have been set up. France imports 800tonnes of fresh legs from Turkey and 4,000 frozen ones from Indonesia.

It is their No1 customer, alarming ecologists with the Natural History Museum in Paris warning that 99% of those sold in supermarkets are not labelled accurately as to the species, with many taken indiscriminately from the wild in Asia every year.

If you want to taste cuisses in all their forms, try Rainettes, which opened in Paris last year as the first frogs legs bar. The name is a colloquial term for frogs in French.

As for snails or escargots The French eat 16,000 tonnes a year – 424million snails – more per person than anywhere else.

It started in the Renaissance with the wealthy; Burgundy wine producers then sent them to Paris where the poor would preserve them for when other meat was scarce. First collected in the wild, it was not until the 70s that snail farms began. There are now about 300.

Two-thirds of consumption is at Christmas with Burgundy and Alsace leading the way.

Leading prepared-snail producer Française de Gastron­omie turns 110million snails into foodie treats a year, and is experimenting with Escargot Bites in a pastry shell. Snails have health benefits, being rich in proteins and minerals.

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