Cornucopia’s Take: Male chicks have long been a casualty of industrial egg production. “Ovo-sexing” would allow producers to learn the sex of the bird in the egg the day it is hatched, enabling “male eggs” to be sold as eggs, rather than suffer destruction at birth.
Amid the recent, growing opposition to tightly caged hens, another practice in the poultry industry has drawn less notice: All male chicks born at egg farm hatcheries are slaughtered the day they hatch. This is typically done by shredding them alive, in what amounts to a blender.
This mass culling of billions of newborn chicks each year has upset not only animal welfare groups, but the egg industry itself has recognized a need to end the process. And that has fueled a quiet international race to develop technology to determine the gender of a chicken egg before it hatches, known as in-ovo sexing.
Male chicks are “macerated,” as the egg industry calls the slaughter, because according to the hard math of modern-day poultry farming, the males are useless: They cannot grow up to lay eggs, and they’re not the fast-growing breeds that are sold as meat.
Now a Texas-based company that sells eggs from pasture-raised hens has entered the race to make an industrial-scale sexing technology, saying it has developed a method that can be used the day eggs are laid. Vital Farms, whose eggs are carried by 5,000 stores nationwide, told The Washington Post this week that it hopes to make the technology, which it developed in partnership with the Israeli tech firm Novatrans, commercially available within a year.