New Method for Determining Chicken Embryo Sex Could Save Billions of Male Chicks

New Method for Determining Chicken Embryo Sex Could Save Billions of Male Chicks

The poultry industry is responsible for supplying about 286 eggs per person in the US, but there is a harsh reality to this industry. Billions of male chicks are culled each year by being crushed alive or gassed at hen hatcheries worldwide. This is because chicks from egg-laying hens are not used for meat production, resulting in the culling of about 7 billion male chicks that are only one day old.

New Study Reveals a Promising Solution

Scientists are now working to develop new methods for screening eggs before they hatch to prevent this issue. A recent study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry shows how “sniffing” eggs using a modified version of a commercial egg-handling suction cup can reveal the sex of fertilized chicken eggs earlier and faster than other methods in development.

The Benefits of Sniffing Eggs

The study was conducted by scientists from the University of California, Davis, and SensIT Ventures Inc. They found that there are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released through the eggshell of some species. By using their specially developed silicone suction cups to extract these VOCs, the researchers could accurately determine the sex of the embryos 80% of the time after just eight days of incubation and using only two minutes of sampling.

A More Efficient and Practical Method

The current methods for determining the sex of chicken embryos before they hatch have their limitations. One process entails making a tiny hole in each egg’s shell and extracting a fluid sample. The other uses hyperspectral imaging to peer inside the egg and spot the embryo. Although both methods are reliable, they have drawbacks.

The researchers suggest that their new sampling system enables quicker collection of egg VOCs, making it more practical for industrial use. They believe that this method can be refined and eventually integrated into hatcheries. Rapid suction-cup sampling could be performed in rows to test lots of eggs at once.

Overall, this method of sniffing out VOCs in eggs holds promise for developing a practical and efficient way to determine the sex of embryos and address some of the challenges faced by the industry. The poultry industry has come a long way in meeting consumer demand for eggs while significantly reducing its negative effects on the environment. With new technologies and changes in human behavior, we can feed the growing population while mitigating the damage caused by food production and waste.


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