Egg producers pledge to end slaughter of male chicks

Egg producers have agreed to look for alternatives to the practice of grinding to death male chicks shortly after they are born, in what has become a widespread practice for the industry that sees the males as immaterial to its bottom line.

The United Egg Producers, the lead trade association for the industry, sat down with animal welfare groups to agree to eliminate “male chick culling” and look to put more humane alternatives in place by 2020, it announced Thursday.

The group said its members “support the elimination” of day-old male chick culling across the laying industry. “We are aware that there are a number of international research initiatives underway in this area, and we encourage the development of an alternative, with the goal of eliminating the culling of day-old male chicks by 2020 or as soon as it is commercially available and economically feasible.”

Europe has begun implementing an alternative to the day-old chick culling practice.

The primary alternative to culling is known as “in-oxo sexing,” which identifies the future chick’s gender before it hatches and ensures it is never born, the Washington Post reported Friday. The technology was developed by Germany.

The method “will mean those male chicks will never be born — or ground or gassed or suffocated, the kill methods some hatcheries employ,” the newspaper reported.

Poultry producers have been trying to keep up with various animal-welfare movements that promote raising hens outside of cages, or “free range” poultry, which consumers have developed a preference for over the last decade. The industry has begun moving toward these practices while eliminating the excessive use of antibiotics.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA, has been circulating videos of the assembly line-like raising of poultry for decades. On the group’s website, a video posted in 2009 shows dozens of male chicks on a conveyer belt being shuttled into a grinder.

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