Earlier this year, Foodlog published an extensive article about killing laying hens. On December 12, a appeared article in the German press that this practice should no longer be allowed as of January 1, 2022.
Could be, indeed. The article describes the practice following conversations with anonymous industry sources. No one wants to be called by name. However, the trade and egg industry, the article says, is well aware that the “advertising race” (to treat animals ethically, CH) has led to practices that are, to say the least, “groundbreaking.” In the organic sector just as well as in the regular one.
Before we go into this in more detail, let’s first ask the question: is that so crazy, if the alternative, sex determination in the hatching egg, doesn’t work fast enough? You need something right? Martijn Haarman, responsible for gender determination at HatchTech and co-developer of such a system, understands the demand, but says that the available capacity is in balance with the demand. In other words, there are plenty of chicken farmers and associated chains of egg shops and supermarkets who choose not to use sex determination in the egg. want to work.
The reason for these practices is the same in all cases: cost efficiency. The time when many eggs are needed (around Christmas and Easter, for example) is not necessarily (and probably not) the cheapest time to raise roosters
Aldi, Lidl and REWE have been advertising for months with a chick logo and the words ‘Ohne Kükentöten’, EDEKA (as well as Marktkauf and Netto) with its counterpart ‘Initiative Lebenswert’ – which is said to be committed to protecting the male chicks. However, there is a good chance that the roosters have indeed been gassed. This is where you as a consumer come to the Aldi . websites1 and Lidl, however, know nothing about it. We don’t find anything on edeka.de either, but if we go to the website of Initiative Lebenswert Look, we see the following formulation: ‘We ensure that the average laying performance of a laying hen is matched by at least one young cock rearing’ (We ensure that the average laying performance of a laying hen is compensated by at least one rearing of a young rooster – CH).
Berta and Bert, Carlo and Koen
What they mean here is that they adhere to the ‘equivalence principle’. Suppose hen Berta lays 350 eggs in her life. Her brother Bert, who was hatching at the same time, would have to be reared, because the roosters were protected and therefore not immediately killed. However, the ‘equivalence principle’ may mean that Bert is indeed killed immediately, but that rooster Koen is reared at moment X, as a so-called ‘little brother’ of Berta, a replacement for Bert. Not necessarily at the same time, it could also be months before or after Berta’s birth. And not necessarily in Germany, that can also happen elsewhere, for example in Poland. If the circumstances at that time and in that place turn out to be commercially more favorable.
But there is one more caveat. Berta lays 200 beautiful eggs of approximately the same size, which are sold individually to consumers. The 150 other eggs she lays are bigger, smaller, have a broken shell, are dirty, etc., etc. These eggs go into the industry for baking products, for example. When EDEKA has sold 350 eggs, they take care of the rearing of 1 rooster. But for the production of 350 eggs sold you need 2 hens (and roosters).
Aldi and Lidl – in turn – say sell eggs without chick kills and to trade according to a variant of the practice that EDEKA follows. They use a cup equivalent system. Here it is not Berta’s laying performance that is the norm, but Berta himself: a rooster is raised for each hen. Carlo maybe, because Bert has probably been gassed a long time ago.
The reason for these practices is the same in all cases: cost efficiency. The time when many eggs are needed (around Christmas and Easter, for example) is not necessarily (and probably not) the cheapest time to raise roosters.
‘brood equivalent system’
It is expected that in one and a half years all supermarkets will switch to a ‘breeding equivalent system’: the rearing of the actual brothers of the laying hens.
A laying hen is 2.5 times as climate unfriendly as a conventional chicken
Meanwhile, not everyone finds sex determination in the hatching egg the best choice. After all, when breeding roosters, no embryos are killed. But, says Haarman, nobody talks about what kind of barns the roosters end up in, what happens to the meat and what the climate impact of this approach is. Due to their slow growth and limited meat intake, the roosters of laying hens eat 2.5 times as much feed as conventional chickens; you can also say that they are 2.5 times more climate-unfriendly.
Fattening laying hens is a pragmatic solution to become ‘without chick deaths’ in the short term. It may well be, he says, that a chicken farmer once thought: “It’s really bad for me to fatten up roosters this week, I’ll be fattening an equal number a few weeks earlier” – and that that ‘solution’ is gradually developed into a creative business model. “All well and good, but then be open and transparent about it. Then we let the consumer and retail make the choices, wherever those choices should be.”
Sex determination on hatching day 9 according to the method of, for example, HatchTech does work for white and brown eggs, but is considerably more expensive. In any case, the hatcheries have to invest. This is a difficult story in connection with the competitive position. France is protectionist and will also support chicken farmers financially2, but cannot prevent – for example – also cheaper Polish eggs being sold. It is expected that a decree will soon be issued containing exceptions for white roosters and incorrectly determined roosters: they may still be killed. A claim ‘without chick deaths’ is therefore not possible in France.
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Live roosters still dead in Germany – German consumer is buggered with rooster-friendly eggs – Foodlog