UEP to eliminate the culling of male chickens; Organization seeks completion of plan by 2020

Published with permission from Poultry Times.  Originally printed on July 20, 2016.

Written by Barbara Olejnik

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — The United Egg Producers, which represents approximately 95 percent of U.S. egg production, has committed to a goal of eliminating the culling of day-old male chicks by 2020 “or as soon as it is commercially available and feasible.”

Chad Gregory, UEP president and CEO, in a June 10 statement, said the UEP board approved and supports “the elimination of day-old male chick culling after hatch for the laying industry.”

Male chicks are culled because they are not useful to the egg industry. They cannot lay eggs and are not bred to grow large enough or quickly enough to be sold as meat.

Gregory pointed out, “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.

“The U.S. egg industry is committed to continuing our proud history of advancing excellent welfare practices throughout the supply chain and a breakthrough in this area will be a welcome development.”

The UEP announcement follows conversations with The Humane League, which urged the elimination of culling of male chicks.

The Humane League noted that one 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.

Researchers in the Netherlands are also working on technology that could identify the sex of a chicken on the ninth day of incubation. This would allow farmers to terminate males before they hatch.

Gregory noted that UEP and its farmer-members “have an obligation to study and adopt practices that improve animal welfare. Our members recognize that this extends to the practice of male chick culling at hatcheries, and as such, our board, at its May 2016 meeting, took a meaningful step forward to address this difficult issue.”

“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,” Coman-Hidy added.

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