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Brits demand end to male chick culling during egg production

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Brits call for an end to male chick culling in the egg processing industry. Image: Getty, chayakorn lotongkum
Brits call for an end to male chick culling in the egg processing industry. Image: Getty, chayakorn lotongkum

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British consumers have called for an end to the culling of male chicks in the egg processing industry and clearer labelling on whether eggs come from a cull-free producer.

In a survey of 2,000 Brits by food tech firm In Ovo, two thirds of respondents believed there should be laws in place to stop the culling of male chicks on the day they’re born, while more than three quarters said boxes should be clearly labelled to show whether eggs have come from a chick-culling process or not.

More than two thirds said they would rather eat cull-free eggs. What’s more, more than half of respondents said they’d be happy to pay an average of 80p more for half a dozen eggs to ensure they were eating cull-free.

Although 82% of Brits surveyed said they would have expected cull-free eggs to be available in UK supermarkets, more than half (55%) had no idea that there was technology available that would remove the need to cull male chicks the day they are born – in fact 44% said they would want this technology introduced into the UK.

Progress being made

Commenting on the results, former Sainsbury’s director and In Ovo adviser to the board Judith Batchelar said: “UK supermarkets have been listening to customers for many years about the importance of ensuring that the food on our shelves has the highest possible welfare standards and is clearly labelled, and in many areas, we have made good progress.

But the fact that chick culling is still happening in the UK is disappointing. The technology to end chick culling now exists, that means we can ensure the eggs we put in our basket can be cull free – with all the ethical and environmental benefits that brings.”

In Ovo’s Ella® machine in action in Holland
In Ovo's Ella system in action

In Ovo has developed a system to detect if an egg is female or male, ensuring only females are hatched and thereby preventing male chicks from being culled. Ella is an inline, fully automated machine that removes male eggs on day nine of the incubation period.

The company has unveiled plans to bring the system to the UK and is already in use by producers across Europe.

Viable alternative method

In Ovo co-founder and managing director Wouter Bruins described the antiquated process of culling of male chicks in the egg industry as a huge problem that needed to be solved, hampered by a lack of viable alternative method.

“But now we have a solution which can stop this unnecessary culling of billions of chicks,”​ Bruins added, “it's already having a huge impact across Europe, and we’re looking forward to bringing it to the UK.

“We are currently in discussions with major retailers in the UK - and soon hope to help them provide the cull free eggs that their customers clearly want and would be happy to pay a few pence extra for.”

Meanwhile, more than 70% of Brits demand animal wellness compliance from food companies​ and are willing to pay the price for certified products, according to new research.

Related topics Meat, poultry & seafood Operations

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