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Many people might not know this, but millions of male chicks are gruesomely killed the day that they’re born, as the egg industry has no use for them. “They can’t grow up to lay eggs, and they weren’t bred to be the fast-growing chickens sold as meat,” reports The Washington Post.
There’s good news on the horizon, though, as United Egg Producers, which represents hatcheries that produce 95 percent of the eggs in the United States, announced that they would end this practice by 2020, or as soon as it’s “economically feasible” and an alternative is “commercially available.” It is teaming up with the Humane League, a national farm animal protection nonprofit, to come up with a plan.
In a statement, Chad Gregory, president and chief executive of United Egg Producers, said, “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.”
U.S. farmers are pursuing a technique known as in-ovo sexing, in which a needle is inserted into a fertilized egg in order to determine the sex of the chick on the basis of differences in the DNA, details Science Alert. This would allow for the termination of embryos identified as male, and the eggs can then be used for different applications, such as vaccine research.
Check out our guide to decoding your egg carton, where we explain what cage free, free range, and pasture-raised all mean.