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Chick culling

Process of killing newly hatched chicks for which the industry has no use / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Chick culling or unwanted chick killing is the process of separating and killing unwanted (male and unhealthy female) chicks for which the intensive animal farming industry has no use. It occurs in all industrialised egg production, whether free range, organic, or battery cage. However, some certified pasture-raised egg farms are taking steps to eliminate the practice entirely.[1][2] Worldwide, around 7 billion male chicks are culled each year in the egg industry.[3] Because male chickens do not lay eggs and only those in breeding programmes are required to fertilise eggs, they are considered redundant to the egg-laying industry and are usually killed shortly after being sexed, which occurs just days after they are conceived or after they hatch.[3] Some methods of culling that do not involve anaesthetics include: cervical dislocation, asphyxiation by carbon dioxide, and maceration using a high-speed grinder. Maceration is the primary method in the United States. Maceration is often a preferred method over carbon dioxide asphyxiation in western countries as it is often considered as "more humane" due to the deaths occurring immediately or within a second.[4][5]

Male chicks on a macerator conveyor belt, seconds before they are killed
Chicks ground by a macerator

Due to modern selective breeding, laying hen strains differ from meat production strains (broilers). In the United States, males are culled in egg production because males "don't lay eggs or grow large enough to become broilers."[4] However, because males gain less weight than females in this production system, the female chicks are not culled.[6] Up to 40 million female ducks per year may be killed in this way. The remains of female chicks are later used in cat food and fertilisers.[7]

Because of animal welfare concerns, there is societal opposition to chick culling. In the 2010s, scientists developed technologies to determine the sexes of chicks when they are still in their eggs (in-ovo sexing). Germany and France jointly became the first countries in the world to prohibit all chick killing from 1 January 2022, and called on other EU member states to do the same.[8] Italy also banned the practice soon after.[9]

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