No-Kill Eggs Go on Sale

One of the many cruelties against animals is the killing of male chicks. Hatcheries kill hundreds of millions of newborn male chicks every year. When the eggs hatch, it’s in a roughly 50:50 gender ratio. But the poultry industry has no use for the male chicks. Not only don’t they produce eggs but it is also inefficient to grow them for meat. As it is impossible to determine the sex before the chicks hatch, the male chicks are killed by electrocution, gassing, or grinding them up alive shortly after birth.

There has been a lot of pressure by animal rights groups in the US and Europe to find a better method. One solution would be to raise male chicks for meat production. From a sustainability perspective, this certainly would be the best method. Yes, it takes a bit longer and is not as cost effective but you have to question how much it would really add to the cost. However, that’s not where the industry currently wants to go. Under extreme cost pressure from its customers – ultimately us consumers – they would prefer to identify the gender within the 21 day incubation period.

A method developed at the University of Leipzig in Germany is the first breakthrough to achieve this on an industrial scale. A laser burns a tiny hole in the shell. This allows fluid to be taken from the egg and tested for sex hormones. Male chicks do not hatch at all, their eggs are processed into animal feed. This method is highly automated and cost-effective as it only takes a few seconds per egg.

These eggs are now being offered in 223 Rewe and Penny supermarkets, first in Berlin and during the course of 2019 by all 5500 supermarkets of the chains. The 6-pack costs ten cents more than a 6-pack of free-range eggs, a price jump that most consumers will probably accept.

In the end, the poultry industry must change its approach so that chickens are suitable for both egg and meat production. In Germany it is already possible to buy eggs from hatcheries where both male and female chicks are raised. The so-called “Bruderhahn eggs” are more expensive and therefore not currently accepted for the mass market.

The laser gender method will be adopted on a voluntary basis according to the German agriculture minister. Experience taught us that this will not work, it needs to become law. Which brings us to the castration of male piglets without anesthesia which is industry standard in the US and Europe. Castration avoids the smell of old gym socks of male pig meat, when male pigs develop sexually.