Egg producers pledge to stop grinding up male chicks after hatching

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Egg Producers Pledge to Stop Grinding Up Male Chicks After Hatching

You've probably heard about female chickens being kept in poor conditions, laying eggs in cages too small for them to spread their wings. But American hatcheries pledged Thursday to end a different controversial practice — one involving male chickens.

Across the industry and the world, when male chicks are born to egg-laying hens, they're immediately slaughtered. The advocacy group that brokered the deal in the U.S. notes male chicks are often put through what's basically a grinder.

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These male chicks can't lay eggs, nor were they bred to grow large enough, or quickly enough, to be sold as meat.

But United Egg Producers, a group that speaks for hatcheries that turn out 95 percent of U.S. eggs, has pledged to stop culling by 2020, or when it's "economically feasible" and an alternative is "commercially available."

Cage-free hens at Organic Valley farms:

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Egg producers pledge to stop grinding up male chicks after hatching
Cage-free chickens stand in a fenced pasture on the Francis Blake organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
A chicken struts inside a fenced pasture on the Francis Blake organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Eggs laid by cage-free chickens sit in a holder after being sorted by Francis Blake on his organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Francis Blake sorts eggs laid by cage-free chickens on his organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Francis Blake talks about his cage-free chicken operation on his organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Francis Blake watches his cage-free chickens roam in a fenced pasture on his organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Cage-free chickens walk in a fenced pasture on the Francis Blake organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
A warning sign is seen on a door in a chicken house on the Francis Blake organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
A cage-free chicken looks out at the egg sorting area on the Francis Blake organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Cage-free chickens walk in a fenced pasture on the Francis Blake organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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The pledge isn't to let these male chicks live, though. It's largely to keep them from being born.
Researchers in the Netherlands have been 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.

The U.S. may become one of the leaders in effectively eliminate culling. An anti-culling bill was presented to Germany's parliament but voted down in March.

According to The Guardian, more than 3 billion male chicks are killed within hours of hatching each year.

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