The first no-kill eggs in the world have gone on sale in Germany after scientists discovered how to tell a chick's sex while it is still an embryo.
Humans have long relied on chickens for meat and eggs, but male chicks are not used for either purpose. They grow too slowly for people to invest in feeding them long enough to produce meat, and they are unable to lay eggs. For these reasons, between 4 billion and 6 billion male chicks are killed around the world each year.
As The Guardian reported, male chicks are either suffocated or fed alive into high-speed grinders that turn the chicks into reptile food.
"Seleggt," the new process patented by German scientists, could put an end to this slaughter. According to The Guardian, the technology can figure out a chick's sex only nine days after an egg is fertilised, ensuring that only female eggs hatch after 21 days of incubation.
"If you can determine the sex of a hatching egg you can entirely dispense with the culling of live male chicks," Seleggt managing director Ludger Breloh told The Guardian.
Breloh told The Guardian that the new method draws on a discovery made by Almuth Einspanier, a professor at the Leipzig University. Einspanier created a chemical marker that can detect a hormone that's only abundant in female chick eggs. The marker, when mixed with fluid from a chick egg nine days after fertilisation, turns white in females and blue in males.
According to The Guardian, Breloh worked with the Dutch technology company HatchTech to make Einspanier's process appropriate for hatcheries to use on a regular basis. The end result uses a laser beam to burn a tiny hole in an egg shell, after which air pressure is used to extract a drop of fluid.
This process, which allows hatcheries to collect fluid without touching the eggs, takes only one second per egg, The Guardian reported.
Seleggt's first eggs, which are labeled "respeggt," hit grocery stores in Berlin in November.
"Today, female hens are laying eggs in farms in Germany that have been bred without killing any male chicks," Breloh told The Guardian.
Rewe Group intends to begin selling these eggs all over Germany in 2019, and Seleggt plans on equipping independent hatcheries with the new technology the following year. Grocery stores will be required to pay a few more cents per box of eggs in return for permission to sell the "respeggt" product.
The German breakthrough is not the only effort underway to end the culling of male chicks, though it appears to be the first commercially viable technology. A number of companies have previously said they are closing in on presenting technology that could determine the sex of a chick before it hatches.
United Egg Producers, for example, announced in June 2016 that it would end the culling of male chicks by 2020, HuffPost reported. And, according to The Washington Post, Egg Farmers of Ontario said in 2016 that it had already patented a process to sort eggs by their sex.
But despite a growing interest in putting an end to the killing of male chicks, only Seleggt managed to commercialise its technology as of December.
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