Science Can Stop the Meat Industry From Grinding up Live Chicks

June 20, 2016 | Reece Alvarez

Chicken farm
Photo credit: jlastras/Flickr(CC BY 2.0)

The killing of millions of baby chickens is one particularly dark side of industrial chicken farming that might be stopped thanks to impending embryo technology.

If you are not familiar with some of the grim and downright brutal conditions under which chicken meat and eggs are produced, take a few quick minutes to browse the internet or view this graphic video of the culling of male chicks to bring yourself up to speed.

Now that you’ve seen that horror, hear this — the predominant industry organization representing 95 percent of all eggs produced in the United States, the United Egg Producers, has agreed by 2020 to stop the practice of throwing live baby chickens into meat grinders and other methods of quick execution such as suffocation or severing of the spinal cord, according to The Humane League, a national nonprofit farm animal advocacy group that claims to have pressured the industry into ending the practice.

“United Egg Producer’s decision to end its support of culling baby male chicks is historic, as it will virtually eliminate this practice in the American egg industry,” according to a media release by David Coman-Hidy, executive director of The Humane League. “We are proud to have played such a pivotal role in doing away with this barbaric convention and to help pave the way to a more humane future. It is clear that chick culling will soon be a thing of the past in the United States."

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According to The Humane League, the practice of chick culling exists is a widespread practice and consequence of the production standards of the modern chicken egg and meat industry.

“About half of all hatched chicks in egg production are culled because they will not produce eggs or efficiently grow as chickens reared for meat,” according to The Humane League. “It is an industry standard to throw these male chicks — while still alive and just hours old — into a high-speed industrial grinder, or by other means. Hundreds of millions of newborn male chicks are killed this way each year in the United States, which is the second largest egg producing country in the world.”

While the agreement between the two organizations includes a goal of ending the practice by 2020, the slaughter could end sooner if a “commercially available and economically feasible" alternative is made available sooner, the United Egg Producers said in the media release.

One alternative, a German embryo-sexing technology capable of determining the sex of a fertilized egg before the chick within develops, may soon be available, according to The Humane League.

“This is both a more ethical and more sustainable process, which will remove tens of thousands of hens from factory farming as the male-identified eggs will be used for an alternative supply, like vaccinations or pet food,” according to The Humane League. “The German government recently made a similar commitment to put this technology to use within the next few years.”

So while the practice may go on for several more years, and there is no guarantee it the associated industries will absolutely stop the practice, at the very least a commitment to stop is on the table and progress appears on the horizon.

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