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In a significant move towards improving animal welfare in the egg industry, France has taken a commendable step by banning the culling of male chicks, following in the footsteps of Germany, which implemented a similar ban in 2022. This decision reflects a growing global awareness of the ethical concerns surrounding the mass killing of male chicks, a practice that has long been a dark shadow over the egg industry.

Source: NowThis News/YouTube

Under the new regulations, hatcheries are required to implement in-ovo sexing techniques to determine the sex of embryos before they hatch. This marks a crucial shift away from the traditional and gruesome practice of culling male chicks shortly after birth. The introduction of in-ovo sexing has been made possible through the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

One company leading the charge in this revolution is the German firm Agri Advanced Technologies (AAT). They employ spectroscopy, a technique that involves shining light through the eggshell to determine the sex of the embryo with a remarkable 97 percent accuracy. This method specifically caters to red hens, which constitute 85 percent of French egg production. The sex of embryos can be determined as early as the 13th day out of a 21-day incubation period, based on the development of sex-specific feather colors in red hens. The beauty of this non-invasive process is that it leaves the eggshell intact, eliminating the risk of contamination.

Other methods of in-ovo sexing, such as AI-powered magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), can be used for both brown and white eggs but are still undergoing development. Consequently, France’s ban on culling male chicks currently applies mainly to brown eggs. Invasive technologies like biomarker detection and DNA analysis are also potential methods for sex determination.

At AAT, robots play a pivotal role in the process. Employees load carts with eggs, which are then transported and unloaded by robots onto an automated assembly line. On the 13th day of incubation, the eggs are briefly illuminated from below, and AI algorithms swing into action. Computer analysis of the spectral data occurs, allowing blue suction cups to separate the eggs according to the algorithm’s directives. Female embryos are returned to the incubator to hatch a week later, while unfertilized eggs and those containing male embryos are repurposed as animal feed. AAT’s Cheggy machine can analyze a staggering 20,000 eggs per hour.

The Lohmann hatchery, a subsidiary of the EW group, situated in Vendée, western France, has already deployed two Cheggy machines and plans to install a third, with the capacity to ‘sex’ up to 60,000 eggs per hour. These hatcheries are instrumental in the supply of female chicks, which will eventually become future laying hens.

In the world of egg production, male chicks have been viewed as easily discarded. Hens can lay unfertilized eggs without the need for roosters, rendering male chicks unnecessary in this context. Historically, male chicks have been culled shortly after hatching, often through crushing, a practice that has now been banned in Germany (since 2022) and France (since 2023). Globally, approximately 7 billion male chicks are culled annually in the egg industry.

Notably, this issue does not extend to chicken meat production, where both males and females are raised together and processed before reaching sexual maturity.

While current in-ovo sexing techniques work effectively for red hens and brown eggs, additional measures are required to address the issue of white eggs. Two French hatcheries have invested in MRI-based technology from the German company Orbem to sex white hens. This method identifies the ovaries and testicles of future chicks, enabling sex sorting regardless of feather color. However, the rate of sexing is significantly lower at 3,000 eggs per hour per machine. To address this limitation, Orbem suggests installing multiple MRIs to increase sexing capacity. Even though this technology is costly, making in-ovo sexing compulsory across Europe would boost demand for sexed hens and ultimately reduce costs.

For consumers, the additional cost incurred for these ethical practices amounts to a mere three cents for six eggs, making it a small price to pay for the well-being of animals and the progress of the egg industry toward a more compassionate future. However, the compassionate thing would be to stop contributing to animal agriculture altogether!

Sign this petition to stop crushing male chicks!

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Tiny Rescue Animal Collection

Not Your Tee By Tiny Rescue: Animal Collection

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