Every year and all over the world millions of day-old male chicks, deemed the ‘brothers’ of laying hens, are culled because they can neither lay eggs nor do they have as much meat on them as broilers do. European countries were the first to decide on ending the practice of culling these day-old male chicks. This topic of discussion has arisen and is moving forward in other countries as well. For many years now, the EW GROUP and its subsidiaries have been involved in exploring multiple approaches that could help overcome this big challenge.
Currently, there is no EU-wide regulation on the culling of male day-old chicks. In Germany, there exists a ban since January 1, 2022.
The possible methods for sex determination in the egg must meet numerous requirements*:
- Early: The sex of the embryo must be determined as early as possible, i.e. before the embryo develops its sensitivity to pain.
- Safe: The procedure must be able to determine the sex with a very high level of accuracy in order for very few female embryos to be sorted out and/or males are hatched.
- Fast: The determination of the sex in the machine must not only be reliable, but also done very quickly in order to meet the needs of hatcheries in everyday practice.
- No negative effects: The entire technical method should not have any negative effects on the development of the embryos and the hatching rate related to the same, nor to the productivity of the adult hen.
- Utilisation of the sorted eggs: The (male) eggs sorted out in the process should be usable, for example as feed or in the cosmetic industry.
- Cost-effective: The machine should be operated efficiently so that the additional costs of sex determination remain as low as possible.
- Acceptance: The process must be accepted by the general public and the consumer as a trend-setting approach that helps to solve the problem of culling day-old male chicks, thereby supporting animal welfare.
(* according to Kaleta und Redmann, 2008)
As early as possible
From an animal welfare point of view, the timing of sex determination in the egg is of central importance. The sooner, the better. According to current knowledge, no embryo has ever developed a sense of pain until the seventh day of incubation. For every solution scheduled between the seventh and the 15. day of incubation this cannot be excluded. From the 15. day onward a sense of pain has to be assumed.*
(Click the image to enlarge)
Sex determination in the egg
Agri Advanced Technologies is currently working on two optical technologies for sex determination in eggs: the hyperspectral measurement technology (under the product name CHEGGY already in use) and the early spectroscopic method (currently in research). Both methods use light to determine the sex of an embryo in the egg. In extensive preliminary investigations under laboratory conditions, the functionality and the advantages of these approaches were clearly demonstrated regarding accuracy of the determination and hatch results.
Hyperspectral Measurement TechnologyMarket-ready
Already in use
After years of intensive research and development work CHEGGY marks a breakthrough in hyperspectral measurement technology. This technology is currently the only method on the market that allows sex determination in the hatching egg on a scale that is suitable for the capacity of a modern hatchery.more information
Early spectroscopic methodIn research
From labatory to practice
In the early spectroscopic method, the determination of sex takes place with the support of an optical measuring procedure on the fifth day of incubation. This technique is still under development. Currently, we are working together with the TU Dresden to transfer the technology from laboratory to practice.more information
Stunning in compliance with animal welfare
Electrical anaesthesia with STUNNY
STUNNY enables hatcheries to integrate the stunning of male embryos in the egg in compliance with animal welfare during the second-third of incubation. The fully automated technique is based on a newly researched method and offers high throughput rates with maximum effectiveness simultaneously.