Germany has passed legislation that makes the culling of male chicks in the meat industry illegal from January 1, 2022. This makes Germany the first country to ban the mass slaughter of chicks by law.
The meat industry utilizes the products of chickens in two key approaches. One is to raise boiler chickens, females that will gain weight quickly and therefore are considered economically valuable for their meat. The others are egg layers, bred to churn out as many eggs as they can before being recategorized as soup chickens. It’s a system that calls for a lot of females with males only serving the purpose of fertilizing eggs. As such, male chickens are routinely culled shortly after hatching as they aren’t considered an economically viable choice.
In traditional chicken farming, when it comes to the male chicks, an approach to repurpose the young animals into low-quality feed has seen them shredded en masse in previous years. Germany is now leading the way out of this ethically questionable practice, making it illegal to carry out the mass culling of male chicks from next year.
Germany's Federal Administrative Court ruled in 2019 that animal welfare concerns outweighed the economic interests of the industry. Farmers will now have to use an innovative technology that can prevent male chicks from being born by sexing developing chicken eggs. The technique cuts a tiny hole in the shell of developing eggs and tests it for sex-dependent hormones. This way, developing males can be destroyed long before hatching, ending the unethical shredding practice that typically processes around 43 million chicks per year in Germany.