About 300 million chicks are killed in the United States every year, and nearly 7 billion around the world, all because they were born male and seemingly unprofitable to egg producers.
In the egg-laying industry, male chicks face a dark reality. They often cost more to feed and house than farmers can sell for as meat, and are therefore considered worthless.
For every new egg-laying hen born into today’s factory farming system, a male chick is killed.
From the consumer’s point of view, most of the chicken sold in supermarkets comes from “broiler” chickens, which are bred to reach full-size quickly before they are slaughtered. These chickens are kept immobile for most of their lives, often developing painful lesions and foot injuries or heart and lung problems, Vox reports.
Egg-laying hens, on the other hand, put more energy toward laying and less toward growing. “Consequently, when their egg output begins to wane, they have so little meat on them that they often don’t enter the human food supply and are instead used as pet food, feed for other factory-farmed animals, or simply ‘landfilled,'” Vox reports.
Scientists in Germany may have found a way to save these animals without hindering the profits of egg producers. As Quartz reports, their patented egg test, “Seleggt,” can determined the sex of an egg before it hatches.
A laser beam burns a tiny hole into the shell of each egg, letting out a small amount of liquid. The liquid contains embryonic hormones that can be tested to prove if the chick growing inside the egg will be male or female.
Any eggs with male hormones do not have to be further incubated at that point, and can be diverted to other products.
With technology and methods like Seleggt, It is possible to harvest eggs without the needless killing of billions of chicks every year. French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume has staked the future of his country’s egg industry on that eventuality, according to the BBC. France is the first country in the world with plans to phase out the culling of unwanted male chicks by 2021. A German court previously ruled that the mass-killing of male chicks could continue until an alternative was found. As Seleggt is adopted by more and more egg producers, Germany may follow with a similar ban.
In the U.S., the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research hosts the Egg-Tech Prize, a contest that “seeks to revolutionize global egg production by offering up to $6 million in prizes to develop a technology that determines an egg’s sex before it hatches.”
Along with reducing a great amount of suffering, this advantage would lead to advances in orthogonal fields like medicine.
“If egg hatcheries had technology that determined the egg’s sex on the day it is laid, over 6 billion male eggs could be used for food, animal feed, or vaccine production,” the FFAR reports. “Additionally, eggs are incubated for 21 days before they hatch. This technology could vastly reduce the cost and carbon footprint, of incubating layer eggs, while freeing up space for the incubation of female eggs – increasing the efficiency of production. Estimates suggest that preventing male chick culling would save the egg industry approximately $500 million from wasted eggs and labor.”
As of 2021, several entries in the Egg-Tech Prize have already been awarded grants, and have proven effective.
It’s time the same humane practices were adopted in the United States. Join others in demanding humane action from the egg industry and a ban on the needless culling of male chicks. Click below to make a difference!
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