A Chinese entrepreneur has developed a unique kind of vending machine. Instead of candy bars, it dispenses live crabs. The machine itself isn’t especially innovative; it’s a refrigerated version of the sort of spiral-rack snack dispenser familiar in the West. What’s interesting is the packaging, which turns a live aquatic arthropod into an interchangeable part. While we’re often told to focus on fresh over processed food, this machine presents a remarkable industrial twist on bringing fresh food to market
The delicacy in question is the mitten crab, an estuarine species especially prized in autumn months when the females are heavy with roe. Elsewhere, it’s an invasive species capable of colonizing brackish waters deep inland, from Chesapeake Bay to California; in England, it has infiltrated the Thames estuary as far as London. A good way to curb invasive species is to eat them. So perhaps it’s time we develop a taste for the mitten crab in the West; a few crab-o-matics just might help to keep the species in check.