It's about baby chickens.
June 9, 2016 4:30 PM   Subscribe

This is the best news for America's animals in decades: In a massive victory for animal rights activists, and for America's chickens, United Egg Producers, a group that represents 95 percent of all eggs produced in the United States, has announced that it will eliminate culling of male chicks at hatcheries where egg-laying hens are born by 2020.

The upstart Humane League has scored another win, due in no small part to its research on the most effective methods of advocacy.
posted by Johnny Wallflower (41 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
It also helps that it's just plain old cheaper to discard male eggs vs incubating them and then discarding the chicks once they hatched. And that the sexing will probably be done mechanically/robotically vs manually. But definitely a welcome change.
posted by GuyZero at 4:32 PM on June 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


"most humans would presumably be grossed out by cooking fertilized eggs"

I thought I was wasting fertilized eggs.

Maybe just don't tell us that there is a difference?
posted by Monday at 4:40 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


They sell fertile eggs in the grocery store? I think the article I read indicated they had to break the shell to sex the chick-zygote so it's probably more an issue that the eggs aren't fit for retail sale after being sexed. Or maybe the chicken is too developed to be sold retail. I think people might object to a yolk full of veins.
posted by GuyZero at 4:46 PM on June 9, 2016


I'm suddenly reminded of the episode of American Dad where Steve and Roger work in a chicken factory. When Steve is told that male chicks are culled, he assumes this means they are given fancy clothes and allowed to dance. Sweet, simple Steve.
posted by Servo5678 at 4:57 PM on June 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Well done, Humane League. And as weird as it feel to give kudos to an organisation that has essentially been stabbing a knife into a screaming infant for the past sixty years and has stopped only because it's become cheaper not to do it, well done to UEP as well.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:12 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wow, this is great work. Literally hundreds of millions of chicks are killed this way every year. Had vaguely heard of THL before but just send them a nice donation.

I'm not a vegetarian anymore, but I think we have a responsibility to keep moving in a more humane direction for how we treat animals. Even if this is no cost or cost-saving to the industry, that kind of change doesn't always happen without someone pushing for it and recognizing a win-win situation, you still have to overcome institutional inertia.
posted by thefoxgod at 5:15 PM on June 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


Huh. That's great, and interesting.

Does in-ovo chick sexing also mean that some day soon I'll be able to hatch my own laying hens (owning roosters is illegal where I live so I've always had to buy adolescent chickens that are old enough to be reasonably certain they aren't male)?

Also, the food co-op we shop at sells fertilized eggs, labeled as such.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:16 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I recall reading a thing in net news (remember that?) in the 80's that described what was done in a hatchery.
One of the odd things (and seriously, not the oddest by far), was that they clipped the combs off of the chicks because a study had shown that they could save a certain amount of grain per chick over its life time if it didn't have a comb. So they had a some kids sorting chicks (culling obviously sick/defective ones) and dubbing the rest because their would save something like 20 cents in feed. And that sounds totally crazy until you realize that those 20 cents multiplied by hundreds of thousands does add up. And even then it still sounds crazy.
posted by plinth at 5:19 PM on June 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


So will having all these extra males help bring down the price of chicken? If so this is fantastic, because goddamn, food is getting too expensive these days.
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 5:34 PM on June 9, 2016


The point is that there won't be extra males. They'll be destroyed while still eggs.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:36 PM on June 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


Theoretically they will probably end up saving money due to not incubating those chicks, so I suppose it could still have an effect on price. But there are lots of other things they need to do to make life less horrible for chickens that will cost more, so I think any savings would be morally best applied there. In practice, any savings will go neither to reducing price nor making life better for the chickens, I suspect.
posted by thefoxgod at 5:39 PM on June 9, 2016


Very cool. I will feel a lot less conflicted about eating eggs now. Going to have to support the Humane League in the future.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:41 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


That is good news and I'm glad to read it.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:46 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


When I went through zoo school, we'd go to the chicken farms and pick up big plasticbags full of freshy gassed baby chicks, to freeze and feed to the birds of prey, snakes and small carnivores for months. I aapplaud this step on humane grounds but I hope the loss of cheap protein doesn't hurt anyone...
posted by The otter lady at 5:47 PM on June 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Don't, don't you cull me
You know I can't believe it when I hear that you won't sex me
Don't, don't you cull me
You know I don't believe you when you say that you don't need me
posted by gwint at 5:56 PM on June 9, 2016 [15 favorites]


MetaFilter: You know I can't believe it when I hear that you won't sex me
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:10 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: a yolk full of veins
posted by flabdablet at 6:12 PM on June 9, 2016


"It also helps that it's just plain old cheaper to discard male eggs"

lol

That video, wow. Needs a warning. There is one but, eh, I ignored it. YOU LIVE! YOU DIE! YOU LIVE! YOU DIE! And some weird ... I don't know, chicklet pachinko machine. They can't be right 100% of the time. Look at the first picture, can you tell they're male? How can you tell? Some cocks must get through, and wind up in the battery with all the ladies. Must be quite popular in the hen house.

The whole business is pretty gross.
posted by adept256 at 7:07 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Chicken sexing is actually a highly skilled job that, last I heard, pays really really good money because it is really really hard to do. I wonder what impact this is going to have on those jobs. Not a positive one, I imagine.

Does the reverse of this happen with fryers or are both sexes equal opportunity for KFC?
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:31 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I wonder if their advocacy will also help end p-values.
posted by clawsoon at 8:01 PM on June 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is great news, and hopefully it will reduce the net amount of suffering in the world in a concrete way. Well done!

>> YOU LIVE! YOU DIE! YOU LIVE! YOU DIE! And some weird ... I don't know, chicklet pachinko machine. They can't be right 100% of the time.

> Chicken sexing is actually a highly skilled job...


Is this the right place to mention that a very senior astronomer once told me that classifying the spectra of stars was just like sexing chickens? When you first see it done, it looks random and you can't believe that it's accurate at all, but then you sit next to an expert and observe for several hours, and suddenly the classification is obvious to you in a way you can't quite explain...

No? Ok then.

posted by RedOrGreen at 8:28 PM on June 9, 2016 [15 favorites]


...suddenly the classification is obvious to you in a way you can't quite explain...

A long time ago I had an FPP about chicken sexing that touched on that, with a few links that still work.
posted by parudox at 8:38 PM on June 9, 2016


Target is switching to cage free only. I think that will have a greater cosmic impact in the long run.
posted by miyabo at 8:54 PM on June 9, 2016


Target is switching to cage free only. I think that will have a greater cosmic impact in the long run.

Eh, the vast majority of "cage free" hens suffer from similar amounts of lack of space (google image "cage free hen barn") and get slaughtered when they no longer produce enough eggs, anyhow. I guess that it's marginally better, but I wonder if there's really a significant difference in suffering; it's common even for me to think of it unconsciously as chickens being freed from cages or whatever, but really it just means that new generations of layer hens will experience a slightly different life of misery to which they'll have no real comparison.

I am pleased that there will be fewer baby chicks ground alive despite being generally very skeptical of welfare reforms (especially ones that target practices that are inefficient and only persist because of intertia), since it seems to be a pretty cut and dry sparing of animals being born into a short life of terror. I hope that this will interest caring people to look into everything else that is wrong about the egg industry specifically and animal use generally.
posted by Gymnopedist at 9:09 PM on June 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


I saw a video of chicks being culled. It was the most awful thing. I'm glad to hear this.
posted by maxsparber at 9:14 PM on June 9, 2016


yeah "cage free" is still BS -- you want "pasture raised"

basically, go to the farmers market and buy eggs from the dude who has pictures of his happy chickens posted at his booth
posted by Jacqueline at 9:26 PM on June 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


You could also look for the Certified Humane label.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:33 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's too bad that birds use the ZW sex determining system instead of mammalian XY. Since the female egg determines the sex in ZW it's not possible to do simple stuff like sperm centrifugation to change sex ratios prior to fertilization.
posted by benzenedream at 10:55 PM on June 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was curious about the process and found this article
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:21 AM on June 10, 2016


In Australia there had been a long debate about what is classifiable as free range. Some egg producers were still keeping stocking densities of 20,000 birds a hectare (0.5m2 a bird!), but a recent ruling set the maximum at 10000/ha. Naturally this is what the major retailers have decided is good enough. Still very dense and the birds get no natural foraging, dust bathing etc. But it is increasingly common to see some producers advertising their stocking densities at 1500/ha., which is the Organic Standard.
posted by wilful at 5:23 AM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Seconding looking for the Certified Humane label.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:00 AM on June 10, 2016


Or you could just eat plants and stop supporting the exploitation of animals. Is this a good thing? I suppose, but it's not much. But, enjoy your chicken menstrual cycle if that's your thing. I'll stick to beans and rice.
posted by tr33hggr at 8:39 AM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I literally get ill from a vegan diet and have been instructed by my doctors to eat meat and eggs. But, enjoy your one-size-fits-all sanctimoniousness if that's your thing. I'll stick to the diet that actually nourishes me.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:54 AM on June 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


As a vegetarian for 32 years, can I suggest that the worst way to encourage others to be vegetarian is what just happened?
posted by maxsparber at 12:01 PM on June 10, 2016 [13 favorites]


Yeah, I think it would be a mistake to turn this into a vegetarian/vegan vs meat eating argument. We all know how that's going to end.

Poorly. It's going to end poorly.

I, too, applaude this decision. I knew about the chick grinder- but not about the jams and other collection of ways they are mishandled. The tossing didn't bother me- chicks are light and not nearly as delicate as the video described.

The grinder, as horrific as it looks, was theoretically a quick death. But the fact that the grinders get jammed and the workers try to clear them by forcing the live chicks down with blunt objects is just horrific. Even if that's a once in the very long while problem, it's horrible.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:22 PM on June 10, 2016


tr33hggr: enjoy your chicken menstrual cycle if that's your thing

The Humane League and folks like them understand that the world can't go vegan overnight, and are taking steps to reduce animal suffering in the meantime. I would like to see it go faster, too, but snark-shaming is less useful than softly presenting the facts. People change at their own pace.


maxsparber: As a vegetarian for 32 years

Huh. TIL that 28 years of vegetarianism is not enough to claim the MeFite crown. I wonder if anyone can top you.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:23 PM on June 10, 2016


I'm sure they can. There's got to be at least one MeFi who hasn't touched meat since the 70s.
posted by maxsparber at 1:27 PM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, as long as we're discussing different labels and stuff, let me put a word in for Follow Your Heart's (relatively) new "VeganEgg", which I think is really nifty, like the egg analog to that burger from last week that bleeds beet juices. My friend made a quiche with it and actually had the "egg" pull away from the edge of the crust in the same way that real eggs do. Way cool!
posted by Gymnopedist at 3:02 PM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm fortunate enough to live in an area where I pass several "EGGS $4 doz" signs every time I drive out, and have to drive slowly so's not to hit the BLATANTLY FREE RANGING chickens sassing around the green fields and hedges. I don't feel guilty about eating those delicious eggs from clearly happy hens. A lot of them are fertilized; there's a spot the size of a sesame seed on the yolk, that's the only difference.
posted by The otter lady at 5:02 PM on June 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


I once got a bloody goober the size of a dime (!) in a yolk but after I picked it out the egg was fine.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:00 PM on June 10, 2016


My friend has quite a flock, and gives me delicious eggs every week. Her girls roam the property freely, and even occasionally follow her into the house. You really can taste the difference between caged chicken eggs and free range eggs!

Her last batch of hatchlings turned out to have two males in. They are mean little fuckers! She is gifting them to my son, who is going out to slaughter them next week. They have been dubbed Shawarma and Coq au Vin.
posted by MissySedai at 10:00 PM on June 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


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