Food cravings don't operate on a set schedule. They can strike at any time, like during the late-night hours when most businesses are closed for the day. As the Independent reports, Germany has come up with an ingenious solution to this common inconvenience: 24-hour sausage vending machines that are accessible when the butcher is away.
The miniature meat markets have become popular in recent years outside German cities. Butchers and other purveyors of fresh food close early in rural parts of the country, which can make grocery shopping difficult for people who work typical hours. The sausage vending machines are always open for business, so customers can pick up their meat for the week's meals (or for an impromptu midnight snack) at the time that works best for them. There were more than 500,000 such machines servicing Germany's carnivores as of 2020, according to NPR.
The automated vendors are famous for stocking products like bratwurst and bockwurst, but their inventories aren't limited to German sausage. Patrons can pick up other essentials like eggs, milk, produce, and butter, as well as prepared sides like potato salad for a full meal. The meats are vacuum-sealed and the machines are temperature-controlled, so shopping from them is just as safe as buying from the butcher.
After taking off in Germany, the trend has spread overseas. In June 2021, Hermann, Missouri, welcomed a German-built vending machine stocked with smoked meat products. Getting German sausage at the push of a button may have been a first for the state, but the U.S. has experimented with unconventional vending machines in the past. Los Angeles has hosted a caviar machine, and for customers with smaller budgets, a ready-to-eat burrito vending machine.