Dutch Start-Up Moves Closer to Large-Scale In Ovo Egg Sexing

NETHERLANDS - The Dutch biotech start-up In Ovo has developed a large-scale solution for determining the sex of a chick while it is still in the egg.
calendar icon 15 June 2016
clock icon 3 minute read

This fast and cheap technique can be applied mechanically at hatcheries, and the In Ovo team say it is faster than the other methods being developed.

The innovation moves producers one step closer to ending mass culling of day-old male chicks. Germany is set to ban culling of male chicks from 2017, and research into methods of determining chick sex before they hatch is also well under way in Germany and Canada.

This is a key issue for consumers concerned about animal welfare: on a yearly basis, In Ovo said over 45 million male chicks are culled in the Netherlands because they cannot be used for egg production. Globally, 3.2 billion male chicks are culled every year.

According to In Ovo founders Wouter Bruins and Wil Stutterheim, it is the first company to determine the gender of an unhatched egg in a matter of seconds. The company has found new substances that indicate the sex of an egg as early as day nine of incubation. These substances are fast and relatively easy to detect, said Mr Bruins.

The technique has been tested at a Dutch hatchery, where the company was able to hatch males and females separately on several occasions. The method is also fast enough to separate large amounts of eggs automatically. The first prototype for a sorting device is currently being developed.

In addition to preventing a lot of unnecessary suffering, the company says the method also yields environmental benefits, as well as the obvious benefits for businesses that will no longer have to hatch eggs of no use. Fewer eggs have to be hatched, resulting in lower energy consumption and a lower CO2 output.

After field tests, In Ovo aims to bring the first sorting machines to market in early 2018.

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