Currently, male chicks hatched to egg-laying hens in factory farms have pretty bleak prospects. Within a day, these chicks are sorted from their female counterparts and tossed unceremoniously into what amounts to a very large blender. It’s a practical consideration for egg producers, but it’s all pretty grisly and dystopian. Roughly 100 million male chicks are culled in this fashion every year. Now, however, that’s about to change.
United Egg producers – an agricultural cooperative responsible for producing 95 percent of America’s eggs – announced that they plan to stop culling male chicks by 2020, or as soon as an alternative method is available and economically viable. Legislators and animal rights groups are hailing the decision as a momentous change in an industry that has been plagued by ethical concerns in recent years.
“We are aware that there are a number of international research initiatives underway in this area, and we encourage the development of an alternative with the goal of eliminating the culling,” said Chad Gregory, president and CEO of United Egg Producers in a statement.
The most promising alternative appears to be a method of in-ovo sexing that uses laser spectroscopy to determine the gender of an embryo inside a fertilized egg. Once disposed of, the male eggs could be recycled to make things like vaccines and pet foods. The technique is being developed by researchers in Germany and The Netherlands, and is expected to be commercially available within the next year. A second potential alternative method would turn eggs with male embryos a different color than those with female embryos.
Stay tuned for more updates from the Cackle Coop!