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COST OF LIVING/Egg vending machine becomes popular attraction in Tainan

03/31/2023 11:02 PM
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An egg vending machine is seen in the Yule street shopping area in Tainan Friday. CNA photo March 31, 2023
An egg vending machine is seen in the Yule street shopping area in Tainan Friday. CNA photo March 31, 2023

Tainan, March 31 (CNA) A vending machine in Tainan, southern Taiwan, has recently become a popular attraction for consumers and people who love taking photographs because of the unique way it dispenses the commodity which it sells -- eggs.

Located in the Yule street shopping area around National Cheng Kung University, the machine unconventionally sells eggs, an arguably fragile item for a vending machine.

On Friday morning, however, the machine was seen empty and completely sold out of the free-range eggs it dispenses using a built-in conveyor belt at NT$25 (US$0.82) a pop.

The vending machine's popularity comes as Taiwan is facing a shortage of eggs due to an uptick in avian flu infections and big temperature swings last year which resulted in a dip in Taiwan's egg production.

The company behind the machine is "Healthy Life: Chicken can help," a movement that partners with free-range chicken farms and eco-friendly agricultural businesses.

Yang Huan-ching (楊環靜), the founder of the movement, told CNA via telephone that NT$25 for an egg may sound steep, but upon knowing the process by which the eggs are farmed and the positive environmental awareness the style of egg farming leaves behind, the price becomes affordable for consumers.

She said that while eggs are supposed to take up the fewest amount of resources to produce compared to livestock, most feeds used by chicken farmers in Taiwan are imported, which create carbon footprints, from countries that likely adopt environmentally unfriendly practices to grow the feed fields.

Under extreme climate change conditions observed in recent years, Yang went on, it is not far fetched to conclude that the current shortage of eggs will become a norm in the future if Taiwanese farms, ranches and consumers don't change their habits.

Yang explained that egg farms that partner with the movement raise their chickens in low population density environments that are physically and mentally healthy for the poultry.

Moreover, partners raise their chickens with locally-sourced feeds that are manufactured through eco-friendly means.

An unforeseen issue that did come from having eggs farmed in such a natural manner, Yang said, was having varying sized eggs.

Yang said that once in the machine, some of the eggs had gotten stuck on its dispensing conveyor belt, but the issue was easily fixed through simple adjustments.

Additionally, none of the eggs sold from the machine saw breaks and cracks, further cementing the benefits of the natural eggs, she said.

According to Yang, the machine has been installed for a little over a year and had terrible sales in the early days of its introduction, with the worst record being less than 30 eggs sold in a month.

However, it recently saw a huge surge in its popularity, causing it to be out of stock on a regular basis due to the recent egg shortage and netizens making social media posts documenting the fun process by which eggs get transported from the conveyor belt to the retrieval area that was designed to emulate the experience of collecting eggs from a coop.

Yang said although it is difficult to break even with the vending machine, the main objective of her movement was not profit making in the first place, but rather to inspire and educate her fellow citizens on the importance of environmental protection.

(By Yang Ssu-jui and James Lo)


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