The Hamilton Spectator

A More Humane Way to Produce Eggs


The egg industry hides a dark secret. Because male chicks do not lay eggs or produce valued meat, they are typically killed within a day of hatching, usually shredded alive in industrial grinders. The practice, known as chick culling, results in an estimated 6.5 billion male chicks being killed each year worldwide.

But now an American egg producer plans to begin selling eggs from chickens bought from a hatchery equipped with new technology that avoids that grisly outcome, a first in the United States.

“The average consumer simply has no awareness that this is even an issue,” said the producer, John Brunnquell of Indiana-based Egg Innovation­s, which sells 300 million eggs a year.

Mr. Brunnquell said that the main hatchery he uses was on track to adopt the technology in early 2025 and that he expected to begin selling eggs produced with the new technique late next summer. “The assumption is, once we start, some other people will follow,” he said.

Several European countries use the technology, known as in-ovo sexing, which determines the sex of a chick before it hatches. Then unwanted eggs can be destroyed before the point at which, according to studies, the embryo feels pain. The technology would add a few cents per egg, experts say.

Germany and France ban chick culling, and Italy plans to end it in 2027. Eggs from hens that were raised in hatcheries that use the technology are sold in Norway, Belgium, the Netherland­s and Spain, and a number carry a “free of chick culling” label.

“I think you don’t have to be a philosophe­r to believe that it’s morally problemati­c to let some animals be born just to be immediatel­y killed,” said Robert Yaman, founder of Innovate Animal Ag, a nonprofit focused on technology that improves animal welfare.

Two types of in-ovo sexing technology are used in Europe, with more in developmen­t. One involves noninvasiv­e imaging of incubating eggs to determine the embryos’ sex, and another involves making a tiny hole in the eggshell to analyze the fluid inside, and resealing the hole, often with beeswax.

As of September 2023, almost 15 percent of laying hens in the European Union were

Globally, billions of male chicks are killed every year within a day of hatching.

hatched using in-ovo sexing, Innovate Animal Ag said.

The Foundation for Food & Agricultur­e Research, a nonprofit establishe­d by the U.S. Congress, said widespread adoption of in-ovo sexing could reduce costs because roughly half of fertilized eggs would no longer need to be incubated until they hatch. Late last year, the group announced three finalists in a multimilli­on dollar prize to develop in-ovo sexing technology that can be used at a commercial scale.

But, Mr. Brunnquell said, there is an “unknown”: “Is there enough innate concern about male chicks being euthanized that people will pay a bit extra?”

New technology could halt the culling of male chicks.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada