NPR logo Vending Machines Sell Live Crabs In Chinese Subway


Vending Machines Sell Live Crabs In Chinese Subway

That's right. Crabs are caught, packed in plastic boxes, and kept alive in refrigerated vending machines, awaiting the pleasure of passing commuters in Nanjing. The headline, and the video, kind of tell the whole story.

Here's a Japanese TV report on the machine:


The crabs are kept at between 32 and 50 degrees Farenheit — not enough to freeze them, but cold enough to make them docile. They sell for between $1.50 and $7.50.

Once the money's inserted, the crabs drop down to the drawer with an unceremonious plop — something that doesn't happen to, say, bananas in other vending machines (see the video). The fruits rate a little plastic bar to keep them from hitting the bottom of the machine. But the crabs — not for the first time in their lives, but perhaps the last — aren't so lucky.

The machines are moving around 200 crabs a day, Xinhua's Tantao News reports. And there's a guarantee that if you buy a dead one, you'll get three live ones, for free, according to Japan Probe.

As for what fate befalls the crabs after they're sold — that's been hard to track down. If you have ideas, please share. Is there proper etiquette for eating a live crab on a train? Or is just a good way to save that extra seat?