“No-cull” is the next frontier in animal welfare for egg and chicken producers, who are looking for technology that will enable them to identify and eliminate unwanted male chicks in the egg.
Male chicks are routinely killed after hatching because they aren’t as useful as females, which lay eggs and gain weight rapidly. Some 6 billion male chicks are slaughtered every year, according to one estimate.
The situation has attracted criticism from animal rights groups and others. Several technologies have been developed to determine the sex of chicks before hatching, according to the Wall Street Journal. These include analyzing samples of fluid drawn from each egg and illuminating from below to determine the color of the chick embryo’s feathers.
Other, more experimental technologies are being funded by the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research, a non-governmental organization that distributes grant money.
These technologies haven’t been widely adopted, in part because of their expense. The bottom-illumination technique is estimated to add 10% to the retail cost of eggs.
But they may soon become necessary, especially in Europe. Some retailers are asking for eggs only from no-cull operations, and Germany approved legislation banning culling earlier this month.