In DepthAgricultural Technology

‘Ethical’ eggs could save day-old chicks from slaughter

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Science  16 Aug 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6454, pp. 627-628
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6454.627

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Summary

Modern laying hens have been bred to produce huge numbers of eggs, but their brothers are useless. They don't put on weight fast enough to be raised for meat. So hatchery workers—specialized "sexers"—sort day-old chicks by hand. Females are sold to farms. Males—roughly 7 billion per year worldwide, according to industry estimates—are fed into a shredder or gassed. Sorting males from females well before chicks hatch at 21 days wouldn't just avoid the massacre. Hatcheries would no longer need to employ sexers, they wouldn't waste space and energy incubating male eggs, and they could sell them as a raw material for animal feed producers, the cosmetics industry, or vaccinemakers. Funding from governments and industry has prompted an abundance of ideas—hormone detection, laser spectroscopy, MRI scans, and genetic engineering. One method has already made it to market: In hundreds of grocery stores in Berlin, shoppers can pay a few extra cents for eggs stamped with a heart and the word respeggt. The hens that laid them were sorted—as eggs—from their brothers based on a hormone test that German researchers developed.

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