September 19, 2016

Chemistry could save billions of baby male chickens

For chickens bred to lay eggs, being male is a gloomy prospect. These cockerels develop too slowly to be raised for meat, so they are usually killed within days of hatching by methods including gassing and grinding. The practice culls billions of chicks each year, raising ethical concerns for consumers and animal rights advocates. As a result, both United Egg Producers, the U.S. industry group that represents most hatcheries for egg-laying hens, and the German government have pledged to end the practice in coming years, or once an alternative is available. Now researchers have developed an approach that could help speed this transition: using spectroscopy to identify the sex of a developing chicken embryo while it’s still in the egg (Anal. Chem. 2016, DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.6b01868). The method, which has up to 95% accuracy, could allow hatcheries to cull male chick embryos just three days into development, before they are sensitive to pain.  Read More

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