Germany Tests Dual-Purpose 'Super Chicken'

Every year millions of day-old chicks are killed and discarded as a useless byproduct of industrial egg production. Male chicks will not produce eggs, and chickens from egg-laying breeds don't have much meat, which makes male chicks from egg-laying breeds basically useless to modern agriculture.

But according to Spiegel, Lohmann Tierzucht, a German company that is the world's largest producer of egg-laying hens, has been working on a new breed of "super chicken" that would make the culling of male chicks unnecessary.

The new "Lohmann Dual" chicken is a rare dual-purpose breed. The females lay respectable numbers of eggs for egg-laying hens, and the males are meaty enough to make decent broilers.

The new chicken was developed in response to growing criticism of modern egg production practices. Spiegel reports that the useless male chicks are disposed of by being tossed alive into a meat grinder called a "macerator," or they're suffocated by carbon dioxide and used as animal feed at zoos and reptile farms. German animal welfare laws prohibit killing animals without "reasonable cause," and recently the culling of male chicks has come under fire. One German agriculture minister has promised to ban the practice within the next year.

"This practice is absolutely horrifying," said Johannes Remmel, agriculture minister of North Rhine-Westphalia. "We cannot allow animals to become the object of an overheated and industrialized system."

If the culling of male chicks in the production of conventional and organic eggs is banned in Germany, it would likely be good news for the new super chicken. The Lohmann Dual is meant to put an end to the massacre of male chicks, but it's not a perfect substitute. The hens lay slightly fewer and smaller eggs than hens from breeds designed solely for egg laying, and the males need more food than conventional broiler chickens, which makes the meat and eggs more expensive than from standard egg and meat chickens.

Also, the Lohmann Dual does not have the enormous breast meat that most consumers prefer. It has very large, meaty thighs, but thigh meat is not popular. The dual-purpose "super chicken" has been on the market for two months, and only three farms have purchased hens so far.