Technology Meets Meat at Alabama C-store
ODENVILLE, Ala. -- This is definitely not your father's vending machine. But the Smart Butcher is certainly creating a lot of buzz.
In the first 15 days that the meat vending machine has been in Lil Market, it has drawn approximately 10 curious onlookers each day, with about four or five ultimately making purchases, store owner Anna Sagani told the Los Angeles Times. Sagani owns the local convenience store, along with her husband Amir.
The latest technology in fresh foods has also captured the attention of the famous Zagat Survey, well known for its restaurant reviews. "Is this the butcher of the future? We shudder to think...," Zagat Buzz stated.
And not surprisingly, the website Treehugger.com chided the concept for furthering the disconnect between consumers and their food sources. "Considering just how disconnected we are with our food sources, it's really not so surprising that people would be willing to buy meat from a machine, but maybe it should be," the website reported.
Nevertheless, the Smart Butcher -- which is the brainchild of developers Rob Harrison and Chase Evans -- aims to meet the needs of rural areas that do not have easy access to fresh meats. Harrison told several news outlets that the idea came to him after spotting a small meat market on the side of the road in rural Alabama.
"I began to think about how much overhead there must be just to sell fresh meat," Harrison told the Birmingham News. "I started thinking how much better it would be to have a machine to sell meat in places like that."
After researching vending machine companies, he found one in Pennsylvania that made a refrigerated machine that would work for his idea. The machine keeps track of sales and uses cell phone technology to let Harrison know when a sale is made and when the machine needs to be restocked, the newspaper reported.
With cash or credit cards, customers can buy a selection of meats restocked by the developers every few days: a 1-pound tenderloin for $4, a 12-ounce rib-eye for $5, a New York strip for $6, two pounds of hamburger beef for $6.99 or 2 pounds of sirloin tips for $8.95, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"First, people were like, 'Meat in a machine? Come on, now,'" Anna Sagani said. "But now, people from far away come to look at it. And people who live nearby come here so they don't have to go to the nearest grocery store, which is six or seven miles away."