Hailed as a massive victory for animal rights, United Egg Producers announced this week that they will eliminate male chick culling by 2020. United Egg Producers is responsible for 95 percent of egg production in the United States, so their elimination of culling practices will signify a big change for the industry.
It may sound like a technical change, however it may be one of the greatest victories for animal rights activists in decades, and a massive improvement in animal welfare. The current standard procedure at hatcheries that supply egg layer breeds is to kill the majority of male chickens soon after birth, in the horrifying method of grinding them to death. Videos of this process can be found here, and come with a content warning.
Although the grinding, called maceration, is difficult to watch, it is considering more humane than other forms of culling such as suffocation and gassing by carbon dioxide. When done correctly, chicks die in only one second, compared to twice that time with gassing methods.
Culling makes sense from a business perspective, as males are not necessary for laying eggs and a different breed is used for meat production. Dual purpose chickens can be raised, but they are not favored in the poultry industry.
The change however, comes through an advancement in technology called “in-ovo egg sexing”. The sex of the chick can be determined in the egg and producers can terminate the male eggs before hatching. The eggs can then be used for pet food or in vaccine development.
Policies to end male chick culling have already begun in other parts of the world, with Germany leading the way with a promise to end culling by 2017. The United States has yet to follow through on a national level, but with United Egg Producers on board, it’s still a great improvement.
Humane League executive director David Coman-Hidy stated that United Egg Producers’ commitment “will virtually eliminate this practice in the American egg industry. … It is clear that chick culling will soon be a thing of the past in the United States.”