There’s been an ugly, long-hidden secret in the egg business: half of all the chicks born into the industry are killed immediately after hatching, often by throwing the live animals into shredders.
It’s a horrifying thought and practice, but it’s been routine for decades. It’s driven by harsh utility. Because the male chicks don’t lay eggs and don’t grow fast enough to be profitably used for meat, the industry’s solution to this unwanted “byproduct” for decades has simply been to dispense with them. Given their size and number, the most convenient way to handle them was simply to grind them up.
Each year, 300 million hens are used for egg production — that means hundreds of millions of male chicks are ground alive annually, compounding the moral problems associated with industrial-style egg production.
Since Unilever became the first major egg user to announce it was seeking a solution to avert this gruesome problem in 2014, there’s been something of a free-market race to commercialize technology that could detect the sex of a newly laid egg. And as the Washington Post’s Karin Brulliard reported recently, that race is now producing technologies that may be on the market within a year.
Funded by the pasture-based egg company Vital Farms, an Israeli company called Novatrans now has a technology that can determine the sex of the chick on the first day the egg is laid. That means that eggs, which would eventually become male chicks, can immediately be taken out of the incubator and never brought to hatch in the first place. There have been similar efforts at work in Germany.
As Brulliard correctly notes, “The wide-scale adoption of in-ovo sexing technology would be another win for chickens, which have become some of the more unlikely beneficiaries of the animal welfare movement.”
With this technology getting support from Vital Farms, and with encouragement from the United Egg Producers, the industry trade association, it’s our hope that it will be commercialized in the very near future. It’s an innovation that makes cruel killing, on a massive scale, obsolete.
When we apply our creative thinking, combined with our moral intention, we get these kinds of outcomes. And the only shredding that occurs involves old, archaic ideas.