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BERLIN (Reuters) - A German dairy farmer has come up with a novel way to drum up new business -- he opened a "milk filling station."
The "Milchtankstelle" near Cologne in the town of Neunkirchen-Seelscheid dispenses the output of 78 cows from a stainless steel vending machine. Customers can either bring their own empty containers or buy milk bottles to fill up.
"I only had a few customers before I opened the station because they had to come at set milking times, which was a problem," dairy farmer Bruno Stauf told Reuters. "Now they can buy my milk whenever they want."
The milk filling station is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Customers can select the amount of milk they want to purchase at a price of 70 cents per liter. They insert the money, put their container under the nozzle and press a button.
"We were no longer getting very much for our milk from the local dairy," Stauf said, who like many dairy farmers in Germany has felt the squeeze of downward pressure on prices at discount supermarkets.
"For half a year were only getting 20 cents per liter and when it's like that, you have to do something else," Stauf said.
At 70 cents a liter, the milk from the filling station is more expensive than at some supermarkets, but Stauf, 55, points out the advantages of tapping a machine for fresh milk.
"There's a lot more protein and fat in it because it is not treated like the milk you get in normal supermarkets," he said.
Stauf said he invested 12,000 euros on his "milk filling station" but was confident it would pay off in the long run. His station is about 30 km outside of Cologne, one of Germany's biggest cities.
"Customers say that the milk on sale in supermarkets doesn't taste good any more," he said. "Supermarkets work on improving the shelf life, but people just want fresher milk. People come from as far away as Cologne to buy milk from my station."
Writing by Michelle Martin, editing by Paul Casciato