June 9, 2016
United Egg Producers Announces Elimination of Chick Culling by 2020
The Humane League convinces America’s largest representative of egg producers to take a historic stance on ending the practice of shredding newborn male chicks
(Alpharetta, GA June 9, 2016) – Following exclusive conversations with The Humane League, United Egg Producers announced today that it will eliminate the culling of male chicks at egg laying hen hatcheries by 2020 or as soon as it is commercially available and economically feasible, replacing the practice with in-ovo egg sexing technology. United Egg Producers represents 95% of all eggs produced in the country, making today’s statement historic in its firm stance against the culling of newborn male chicks, which is currently standard practice in the egg industry.
“United Egg Producers is proud to have worked with The Humane League on this commitment to support the elimination of day old male chick culling after hatch for the laying industry,” said Chad Gregory, President and CEO of United Egg Producers. "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."
Currently in the egg industry, all female chicks that are hatched will go on to become layer hens, but the industry has no use for the male chicks. About half of all hatched chicks in egg production are culled because they will not produce eggs or efficiently grow as chickens reared for meat. It is an industry standard to throw these male chicks - while still alive and just hours old - into a high-speed industrial grinder, or by other means. Hundreds of millions of newborn male chicks are killed this way each year in the United States, which is the second largest egg producing country in the world.
To address this practice of culling day-old chicks, a new technology developed by German scientists determines the sex of each fertilized egg before the chick inside develops. The embryo-sexing technology, which should soon be available for commercial use in egg production, will enable the termination of all male-identified eggs from the hatchery, preventing them from ever being hatched or culled. This is both a more ethical and more sustainable process, which will remove tens of thousands of hens from factory farming as the male-identified eggs will be used for an alternative supply, like vaccinations or pet food. The German government recently made a similar commitment to put this technology to use within the next few years.
“United Egg Producer’s decision to end its support of culling baby male chicks is historic, as it will virtually eliminate this practice in the American egg industry,” said David Coman-Hidy, Executive Director of The Humane League. “We are proud to have played such a pivotal role in doing away with this barbaric convention and to help pave the way to a more humane future. It is clear that chick culling will soon be a thing of the past in the United States."
After driving progress in the cage-free egg movement by securing commitments to eliminate cages from the supply chains of over 150 companies, including Walmart, Kroger, Sodexo, ConAgra and Denny’s, The Humane League approached United Egg Producers earlier this year with a request to work on eliminating the practice of chick culling. Through exclusive conversations and strategizing, The Humane League and United Egg Producers determined a feasible timeline for the egg producers the cooperation represents to implement the new embryo-sexing technology as it becomes available for commercial use. In 2014, Unilever made a similar commitment to convert to this technology, but today’s announcement proves that this will soon become the norm for the entire egg industry. United Egg Producer’s decision to support the elimination of newborn male chick culling is a historic tipping point and will prevent the suffering of hundreds of millions of animals each year.