The world’s first no-kill eggs are now on sale in Germany thanks to a new technology capable of determining the gender of a chick before it hatches, potentially putting an end to the global practice of shredding billions of living male chicks per year.
Every year, more than 45 million male chicks are killed in Germany alone because they don’t lay eggs, making it uneconomical to grow them.
Generally speaking, chickens used for meat and eggs around the world are divided into two categories: boilers are used for meat production because they are able to put on a lot of weight in a short amount of time, while egg-layers are capable of laying hundreds of eggs in a year, after which they are sold as soup chickens. Commercial breeding focuses on these two areas and, because male chicks don’t lay eggs and thus don’t pack on the pounds, they’re rendered uneconomical. So, they’re shredded and made into food for other animals. (Technically speaking, the company says killing male chicks because of this reason is invalid under the German Animal Welfare Act, but chick culling has seen exemption from the law.)
That’s where the noninvasive SELEGGT method comes in. The now-patented early screening uses endocrinological gender identification to determine the sex of a chick between 7 and 10 days after an egg has been fertilized. The automated process takes an egg that has been in the incubator for nine days and uses a sensor to check whether the egg is fertilized. If so, a laser cuts a small hole in the eggshell to extract a “minimal amount” of allantois fluid (fetal membrane) from within, leaving the chicks “untouched" and “safe and sound”.
Male and female chicks secrete different sex hormones. If the embryo is female, the allantois fluid will contain the female hormone marker estrone sulphate, which shows a color change similar to a pregnancy test. With an accuracy rate of about 98 percent, the test allows fertilized male eggs and unfertilized eggs to be turned into high-quality feed, while fertilized female eggs are put back into the incubation to hatch on the 21st day.
“Sex determination by endocrinology involves removing fluid from the hatching egg between days eight and ten of incubation and then analyzing it outside the hatching egg with a new, patented marker to find out if this hatching egg will develop into a male or female chick,” said Managing Director Ludger Breloh in a video.
Researchers say they put their “heart and soul” into the project and look forward to a future without chick culling.
[H/T: The Guardian]