A vending machine sells eggs in Tainan on Friday. Photo: Hung Jui-chin, Taipei Times

/ Staff Writer, with CNA

A vending machine in Tainan has become a popular attraction for people who enjoy taking photographs due to the unique way it dispenses its commodity — eggs.

Located on Yule Street (Yule Street) near National Cheng Kung University, the machine unconventionally sells eggs, an arguably fragile item for a vending machine.

However, on Friday morning, the machine was completely sold out of the free-range eggs it dispenses using a built-in conveyor belt at NT$25 a pop.

The vending machine's popularity comes as the nation is facing a shortage of eggs due to an uptick in avian flu infections and large 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, an organization that partners with free-range chicken farms and environmentally friendly agricultural businesses.

The group's founder, Yang Huan-ching (杨环静), said that although NT$25 for an egg sounds steep, considering the process by which the eggs are farmed and the positive environmental awareness this kind of egg farming leaves, people realize the price is not excessive.

Although eggs usually use fewer resources to produce than livestock, most feeds used by chicken farmers in Taiwan have high carbon footprints, as they are imported from countries that likely adopt environmentally unfriendly practices to grow the crops, she said.

Under extreme climate change observed in recent years, it is not unreasonable to predict that the current shortage of eggs will become the norm if Taiwanese farmers and consumers do not change their habits, she said.

Egg farms that partner with the movement raise their chickens in low-population-density environments that are physically and mentally healthy for poultry, Yang said.

Partners raise their chickens with locally sourced feeds that are manufactured through environmentally friendly means, she added.

An unforeseen issue that arose from having eggs farmed in this manner was the varying sizes of eggs, she said.

Once in the machine, some eggs get stuck on the conveyor belt because they are not uniform, but the issue can be fixed through simple adjustments, she said.

None of the eggs sold by the machine have been broken or cracked, cementing the benefits of the natural eggs, she said.

The machine has been installed for just over a year and had terrible sales in its early days, at its worst selling fewer than 30 eggs in one month, she said.

However, it recently saw a huge surge in popularity, causing it to run out of stock on a regular basis due to the egg shortage and people posting about it on social media, documenting the process of the eggs moving from the conveyor belt to the retrieval area — designed to emulate the experience of collecting eggs from a coop, she said.

Although it is difficult to break even with the vending machine, the main objective of the group is not profit, but to inspire and educate people on the importance of environmental protection, Yang said.

News source: TAIPEI TIMES