The first chicken eggs hatched using a new method that could spare billions of male chicks from slaughter have gone on sale in Germany.
Each year, around 7 billion male chicks are gassed or thrown into grinders because they do not lay eggs and do not grow fast enough to be sold as chicken meat, making them commercially useless.
Scientists at Seleggt, a German company, have found a way to tell whether an egg contains a male or female chick, meaning male eggs can be discarded before they hatch rather than slaughtered after birth.
The first of these “no-kill” eggs hatched using this method are now on sale in Berlin after four years of research. The eggs are labelled “respeggt”.
“If you can determine the sex of a hatching egg you can entirely dispense with the culling of live male chicks,” said Dr Ludger Breloh, Seleggt’s managing director, told the Guardian.
Many companies around the world have been trying to crack the secret of early gender detection.
“It’s not about winning or losing,” Dr Breloh said of the competition to find a solution that could be financially viable.
“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 Seleggt eggs are more expensive than eggs produced using the male chick slaughter method, but the company hopes that customers will be prepared to pay slightly more for the ethical production.
The chick’s sex is detected nine days after an egg has been fertilised. The female chicks are brought on to hatch at 21 days, while the male eggs are discarded and processed into animal feed.
The firm uses a tiny laser to burn a hole in the shell and then air pressure is applied to squeeze a drop out a drop of fluid, which can be tested to determine the sex of the chick.
The slaughter of male chicks has attracted growing criticism from animal rights group after videos emerged showing buckets of newly-borns being poured into industrial-scale meat grinders. Other chicks are suffocated or gassed using carbon monoxide.