Many people who consume eggs are completely unaware of the processes that go into the egg industry. Most have likely never even hear the term “chick culling.” What chick culling is, is the process of killing newly hatched poultry for which the industry has zero use. Whether free-range, organic, or battery caged, it does not matter because this process is used all across industrialised egg production, including the United States and the United Kingdom. Being as male chicks do not lay eggs, these baby males are considered absolutely useless in the industry, and are therefore culled by being killed shortly after hatching. Many of these culling methods do not even include anesthetics. They include cervical dislocation, asphyxiation by carbon dioxide, and maceration using a high speed grinder while the chicks are still alive.
If that sounds horrific to some, they are not alone. The Guardian reports that scientists are working diligently to do away with this culling process by attempting a method that determines the sex of a chick only nine days after fertilization. Doctor Ludger Breloh spearheaded the recent four year program by German supermarket Rewe Group to make its own-branded eggs more sustainable. He has spoken out about this new work to do away with culling, called the “Seleggt” process.
“If you can determine the sex of a hatching egg you can entirely dispense with the culling of live male chicks. It’s not about winning or losing. We all have the same goal, which is to end the culling of chicks in the supply chain. Of course, there’s competition, but it’s positive in that it keeps us all focused on that goal.”
The Guardian cites an estimation that four to six billion male chicks are slaughtered globally each and every year since they are viewed as serving no economic purpose. Breloh and other scientists at the University of Leipzip in Germany have developed this chemical marker that they hope will change how things are currently done in the egg industry. This marker is similar to a pregnancy test and determines the hormones present in high quantities in female eggs. By mixing the fluid from fertilized eggs at nine days, the marker changes blue for male and white for female, and has a 98.5 percent accuracy rate. Breloh hopes to find a way of making this technique usable for everyday use in hatcheries.
German minister of food and agriculture, Julia Klockner, has stated that this technique places Germany as a pioneer in the industry.
“With the market readiness of [this] process, Germany is a pioneer. Once the process is made available to all and the hatcheries have implemented [it], there will be no reason and no justification for chick culling.”