Germany Steps Up Research to End Killing of Male Layer Chicks

GERMANY - Researchers in Germany have been presented with extra funds to help the country phase out the killing of male day-old layer chicks as soon as possible.
calendar icon 14 July 2015
clock icon 4 minute read

He presented in Berlin a certificate of the award of more than one million euros to the University of Leipzig in order to transfer the researched alternative methods into practice.

"Since the theory works, we must now press on with a practical application. As soon as appropriate equipment is available on the market, there is no longer any justification for the breeders to hatch male chicks and then kill them," said Federal Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt at the presentation.

Mr Schmidt reaffirmed his ambitious goal, saying: "My goal is that the killing of chicks ends by 2017!"

With these additional resources, Mr Schmidt was promoting the development of a fully automated device prototype for early sexing in the fertilised egg. This lays the foundation for a standard and widespread application in the industry.

As well as the University of Leipzig, the research team benefiting from the grant also has members from Dresden University of Technology and the company EVONTA Technology GmbH.

The prototype will determine the sex of the embryo inside the egg in just three days, and will sort the eggs automatically. This allows the hatching and killing of male chicks to be prevented. Parallel to the development of the prototype, other research will run alongside to conduct practical experiments with the new methods.

In previous research also funded by Germany's agriculture and nutrition department (BmEL), in ovo sex determination by means of near-infrared Raman spectroscopy had emerged as the most promising method.

Project Coordinator Professor Maria-Elisabeth Krautwald-Junghanns, from the University of Leipzig, accepted the funding award on behalf of the research team: "In the search for a suitable alternative to the killing of male chicks from laying breeds, the most difficult stage is already behind us now.

"Now the challenge is to join the individual components that have already been successfully tested in Dresden and Leipzig to form a whole. This device must then prove its practical use in the hatcheries."

The research to end the killing of male chicks is a key component of the BmEL initiative "A question of attitude - new ways for more animal welfare".

Mr Schmidt commented: "The research project co-ordinated by the University of Leipzig is groundbreaking for animal welfare in poultry breeding. It is intolerable from both animal welfare and ethical points of view that each year about 45 million male chicks are killed, just because they have the wrong gender. I want us to be a pioneer for more animal welfare in the egg production in Europe."

A ban on male chick killing without a suitable alternative would only move the killing of chicks abroad.

In addition to the above project, the BmEL also supports another research project on the use of so-called dual-purpose chicken breeds. The project will start shortly.

"If egg and meat production were brought closer together again, this would be a further contribution to greater animal welfare in poultry farming," said Mr Schmidt.

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