Д-р МАДЛЕН ВАСИЛЕВА: Какво да правим с братята на кокошките носачки?
WHAT TO DO WITH BROTHERS OF LAYING HENS?
(Updating information on the latest scientific achievements in the quest to stop cruel practice with the killing of cockerels from the laying hens’ breeds)
Nowadays, breeding focusses almost exclusively on very specialised and high-performing poultry breeds. On the one hand, there are specialised broiler breeds, characterised by fast growth and a high proportion of breast meat. When using these broiler breeds, both male and female chicks are reared until reaching slaughter age. On the other hand, there are laying hen breeds, that lay about 300 eggs per year, but grow only very modestly. For these reasons, the male offspring (brothers) of the laying hen breeds are neither suitable for egg production nor economically viable for meat production and are mostly killed immediately after hatching.
One can essentially distinguish between three different methods:
layer brother fattening,
the dual-use breed and
gender identification in the hatching egg.
Layer brother fattening and the dual-use breed are already being used to a certain extent, i.e. eggs from these breeding types can already be bought in German supermarkets.
Essentially, an economical dual-use breed with a good egg-laying and fattening capacity would be an optimum process. This, however, has not been possible yet.
A brother layer of the classic egg-laying breed must be fattened for around 85 days to reach a live weight of approximately 1.5 kg.
A dual-use cock is fattened for around 60 days. It reaches a weight of around 1.8 kg. The feed conversion ratio is more efficient in dual-use cocks than in cocks of the laying breed.
The classic chicken, i.e. a broiler are fattened for around 35 days and reach a weight of around 2 kg.
It shows that chickens of the egg-laying breed produce meat very inefficiently. The fattening costs here cannot be covered by meat sales, so this means that these additional costs are borne by the hens’ eggs. The customer pays around 2.5 to 3 cents more for an egg because the brother was fattened.
With dual-use breeds, the laying capacity of the chicken is lower than with similar laying breeds. In addition, the dual-use cock fattening capacity is less efficient than that of classic broilers. Therefore, it is very difficult to sell both eggs and meat of the dual-use breeds economically.
In the egg business, incubating male eggs and infertile eggs is a colossal waste of resources. Right now, all hatchery eggs are incubated, and chicks are sexed a few weeks after hatching when it’s possible to determine gender. This occupies valuable hatchery resources, is very labour-intensive, and the subsequent slaughter of male chicks is a significant animal welfare concern. It’s no surprise then, that technologies are being developed to prevent all this.
The best alternative at the moment would be to identify the gender in the hatching egg – long before it hatches. As a consequence, the male hatching eggs are removed early on and do not hatch. After 21 days of incubation, only the female chicks hatch from the hatching eggs.
Since the ratio of male to female hatching eggs is approx. 50:50, the male hatching eggs are sorted out early in the incubator. Energy costs are saved and the work processes in the hatcheries are simplified because after the chicks have hatched, the male chicks no longer need to be removed and killed. The removed male hatching eggs could then be turned into a high-quality feed, which additionally generates added value.
The rejected hatching eggs are swiftly turned into a high-quality food supplement (hatching egg powder) with the help of a defined technological process. The essential and valuable components of the hatching egg powder will provide a more efficient way of feeding young farm animals in the future. The male hatching egg powder therefore gains economic added value and can be integrated into the feed recipes for farm animals.
Gender identification in the hatching egg can be described as a kind of gap-bridging technology until it is possible to rear a more profitable dual-use breed.
Around the world, various analyses are being conducted in both universities and private research institutes to look at ways of avoiding chick culling by using gender identification in the hatching egg.
The race to bring egg sexing tech to market is extremely close. Different technologies are being developed in Germany, Israel, Canada and the Netherlands, and which one will reach market first is becoming clear. Here is a Poultry World update on which technology is expected to commercialise first.
Here are the latest updates on the contenders – how each technology works, when each is expected to hit the market, speed, cost and more. Please note that some firms were not comfortable with providing some of the requested information.
5 contenders in bringing egg sexing technology to market:
EggXYt – Genetic alteration (https://www.eggxyt.com/)
Point in time during incubation when test is applied? Day of lay
How it works: The genes of the hen are modified so that male eggs are laid with a bio-luminescent marker, which is detected after lay with an optical scanner. The firm refuses to explain whether it’s a chicken gene for biolumescence that is somehow being ‘turned on’ inside the hen (called gene editing) or whether the gene responsible is being inserted from another organism (making these chickens genetically modified organisms/GMO).
Background: Founded in mid-2016 by CEO Yehuda Elram and Dr Dani Offen, a professor and head of the Neuroscience department at Tel-Aviv University Medical school in Israel.
Stage of commercialisation: No answer provided at this time
Expected: Date of commercialisation? No answer provided at this time
Speed? No answer provided at this time
Cost per egg? No answer provided
SELEGGT – Endocrine testing (https://seleggt.de)
Point in time during incubation when test is applied? Day 9
How it works: Incubated eggs are candled at day 9 to see if an embryo is present. If so, a minimal amount of allantois fluid is extracted from the fertilised eggs using a fine needle (before the embryo can feel any pain), and placed onto a patented marker on the outside of the egg. A colour change indicates whether the embryo is male or female.
Background: Founded in March 2017 as a joint venture of the REWE Group (a large German retailer) and Dutch incubation technology firm HatchTech, in cooperation with the University of Leipzig. (The German Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture provided funding to various German universities with the aim of creating egg sexing technology.)
Stage of commercialisation: Working on prototype 3.0, not yet fast enough for large-scale hatcheries
Expected: Date of commercialisation/product launch? No comment
Speed? No comment
Cost per egg? 1 to 3 Euro cents
SPECTROSCOPY – Analysis of fluorescence signals (tu-dresden.de)
Point in time during incubation when test is applied? Day 3
How it works: Analysis of fluorescence signals from embryonic blood vessels directly in the egg. The vessels are illuminated through the intact egg shell, using a near infrared laser and the backscattered radiation is measured. A specific band of fluorescence – at 910nm – is only found in the blood of male chicks.
Background: Team led by Roberta Galli and Gerald Steiner at the Dresden University of Technology.
Stage of commercialisation: No comment
Expected: Date of commercialisation/product launch? 2018
Speed? Seconds per egg
Cost per egg? NA
HYPEREYE – Hyperspectral imaging (no website)
Point in time during incubation when test is applied? Day of lay
How it works: Eggs are scanned using hyperspectral imaging, a process that collects data on an object across the electromagnetic spectrum and compares this unique ‘fingerprint’ (through complex mathematical analysis software) to given attributes, in this case, whether an egg is fertile or not and contains a male or female embryo.
Background: Developed by Dr Michael Ngadi, Department of Bioresource Engineering at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, with funding for R&D and commercialisation provided by the Ontario Poultry Industry Council, Egg Farmers of Ontario and a research institute called Livestock Research Innovation Corporation.
Stage of commercialisation: Prototypes are currently being tested in Ontario hatcheries
Expected: Date of commercialisation/product launch? 2018 or 2019
Speed? 30 000 to 50 000 eggs per hour
Accuracy? 95 to 99%
Cost per egg? About 5 cents CAD
Other scientific opinions and up-to-date information on animal health, welfare and welfare, antimicrobial resistance, as well as risk assessment throughout the food chain can be found on the website of the Center for Risk Assessment of the Food Chain:
Information: "Awaiting the end of a cruel practice - when will the mass killing of unwanted cockerels from the poultry industry (Part I and Part II) stop?"
Used literature and more details:
Egg sexing close to market; Jun 27, 2018; Poultry world № 5 2018 - Treena Hein, Correspondent; https://www.poultryworld.net/Eggs/Articles/2018/6/Egg-sexing-close-to-market-301797E/
The 9th edition of Poultry World 2018 – Bigger picture; https://www.poultryworld.net/Home/General/2018/11/The-9th-edition-of-Poultry-World-2018-is-now-online-358678E/
Investment grows in technology to solve male chick culling, Oct 31, 2018, Poultry World, Tony McDougal, Freelance Journalist https://www.poultryworld.net/Home/General/2018/10/Investment-grows-in-technology-to-solve-male-chick-culling-353190E/?intcmp=sticky-related-content
SELEGGT Responsible solution - http://www.seleggt.com/seleggt-procedure-technologies/
Prize funding for ovo-sexing breakthrough, Genetics, News, Oct 19, 2018, Poultry World, Tony McDougal, Freelance Journalist; https://www.poultryworld.net/Genetics/Articles/2018/10/Prize-funding-for-ovo-sexing-breakthrough-348739E/
Launched: Method to identify gender in hatching eggs, Genetics News Nov 9, 2018, Poultry World, Tony McDougal, Freelance Journalist; https://www.poultryworld.net/Genetics/Articles/2018/11/Launched-Method-to-identify-gender-in-hatching-eggs-357621E/
Would Swiss consumers pay for dual-purpose poultry? Health News, Jan 19, 2018, Poultry world, McDougal, Freelance Journalist;
Carcass and meat quality of dual-purpose chickens (Lohmann Dual, Belgian Malines, Schweizerhuhn) in comparison to broiler and layer chicken types. Poult Sci. 2018 Sep 1;97(9):3325-3336. doi: 10.3382/ps/pey172. Author information: Mueller S1, Kreuzer M1, Siegrist M2, Mannale K1, Messikommer RE1, Gangnat IDM1. PMID: 29788213; DOI: 3382/ps/pey172;
Dr. Madlen Vassileva
Risk Assessment Center on Food Chain