Technology may soon rescue male baby chicks from the grinder. Yes, the grinder. When day-old chicks from egg-laying breeds are sexed, the males are typically tossed into a grinder where death is instantaneous. That may be bad aesthetics, but it's not bad ethics considering the economic problem, which is that the males of egg-laying birds have very little value as meat birds.
Of course, the core problem is economic, and not ethics. Raising eggs that will turn into unwanted male chicks takes a lot of wasted electricity and time, and also wastes a perfectly good egg that might otherwise have made into an omelet.
The good news is that technology is about to provide a fix for all. NPR reports:
Vital Farms teamed up with an Israeli company called Novatrans and found a way to analyze the chemical makeup of gases that leak from the pores of an egg and determine the sex of the embryo inside. "We are able to trap the gas and read whether it's male, female, or infertile, and do it in a matter of seconds, rather than minutes," says O'Hayer.
O'Hayer says it's possible to make that determination two days after the egg is laid, before it enters the incubation chamber. At that point, it's still possible to sell the eggs containing male embryos as regular edible eggs. It normally takes 21 days of incubation for an egg to develop into a chick that breaks out of its shell.
The Vital Farms-Novatrans partnership expects to have a commercial version of this invention up and running within a year.
By that time, though, it may have competition.
In Canada, Egg Farmers of Ontario has been funding research by Michael Ngadi, a scientist at McGill University, who's developing a way to determine the sex of embryos by shining light through them. Harry Pelissero, general manager of Egg Farmers of Ontario, told The Salt that the technique could be commercially available within two years. Meanwhile, German researchers are working on yet another approach....
According to Chad Gregory, from the United Egg Producers, there's huge demand within the egg industry for a way to solve this problem, and the first company to create a solution could earn a lot of money. "Over time, worldwide, it could be worth billions of dollars," he says.