Chicken farming - urban myths and awful truths
I hate to burst the Easter bubble, but you know those fluffy yellow chicks we see images of at this time of the year? It turns out that around 13 million of them are killed annually in commercial hatcheries in one of two approved methods. One is by gassing - the other by maceration, which means they're chopped up at very high speed. While they're still alive.
The problem is that they are male chicks and therefore useless to the egg industry. They're no good for chicken meat growers either because the breed of chicken that makes a good layer isn't great for meat. So while the Easter egg industry is busy serving up cute images of baby chicks, the hatcheries supplying the real egg industry are snuffing out millions of real newborn chicks every year - either via CO2 in what's called a 'euthanasia chamber' or by grinding them up. It's not that I don't understand the problem - just what do you do with 13 million unwanted roosters- to-be? But in an age of technological marvels when we can catapult millionaires into space and bring them back again, couldn't someone figure out a less wasteful, kinder solution?
In fairness to the industry, there have been attempts to find a way of determining the sex of the embryonic chick in the egg before it hatches into a living bird, but the hatchery spokesman I rang this week says that so far these have been unsuccessful.
For me, this issue of disposing of baby chicks arose when a reader posted a comment on an earlier blog on eggs The hen or your hip pocket? claiming that male chicks were macerated. At the time I thought it must be an urban myth in the same league as 'eggs are full of hormones'. But while the egg industry, according to the Australian Egg Corporation, has never given hormones to chickens, the mass destruction of male chicks is no myth.
This is information many of us - me included - would rather not know. Especially when you learn that regardless of the label on your egg - cage, organic, free-range or barn-laid - the hen that laid it still came from a hatchery that disposes of male chicks. But if we're going to keep on eating our poached eggs and frittatas, maybe it's dishonest not to face up to what egg production involves.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
I'm the habit of posting SMH articles...
... and this one (and it's comments) are worth a read: