It’s a small revolution for German chicken coops. From January 1, 2022, the slaughter of male chicks will be prohibited in poultry farms in Germany. Members of the Bundestag approved a law to this effect on Thursday, May 20. It must now be approved by the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat.
“We are going to be the first country in the world to ban the practice of killing chicks just because they are born of the wrong sex, namely male” welcomed the German Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner, on the NTV television channel. “I consider this technique unethical and contrary to animal welfare. We are going to be pioneers and I am sure that other countries will follow ”.
Germany thus prohibits a practice which results each year, across the Rhine, in the death – most often by gassing – of 45 million male chicks from laying hens. Unable to lay eggs and growing too slowly compared to broilers, they are considered unprofitable.
Germany invests in sexing
As of January 1, 2022, breeders of laying hens will therefore have two options: either to raise the male chicks, or to invest in machines allowing them to determine the sex of the chicks before they hatch.
The federal government has invested eight million euros to speed up research in this area. Currently two techniques have been proven. Developed in Germany, endocrinology consists of piercing the shell on the ninth day of laying, then taking a serum sample and testing it. Developed in France, spectroscopy makes it possible to identify the sex by transparency, without piercing the shell.
This law is one of the results of a decision of the Federal Administrative Court which, in 2019, placed animal welfare above economic interests. In principle, the text arouses little opposition. But criticisms concern its implementation and in particular the deadlines considered to be very short.
“The end of this practice is justified” notes Friedrich-Otto Ripke, president of the Federation of Poultry Breeders. However, he fears that “Many small hatcheries can no longer function economically because of the high costs associated with rearing chicks and young males”.
The unilateral nature of this initiative is also worrying. “There is an urgent need to promote uniform provisions at EU level” calls Friedrich-Otto Ripke who fears that some relocate abroad. What about the possible increase in imports of eggs for the production of foods such as pasta or mayonnaise?
Minister Julia Klöckner admits that she cannot ban these imports but is counting on the installation of signage on the foods concerned. As for the cost of eggs, it should increase by one to two euro cents per unit. “Prices will increase”, confirms the Minister of Agriculture. “But we see it in surveys: consumers tell us that animal welfare must come at a cost” she recalls, confident in the reaction of German customers.
And in France ?
In France, the government plans to ban the practice of crushing male chicks at birth at the end of 2021. But the sector is not ready. Philippe Juven, president of the Interprofession des Eggs, warns: “Some companies have solutions … But that does not allow the entire French market to be satisfied”.
For the moment, three complementary techniques are being studied to stop the elimination of males: in ovo sexing, the rearing of male chicks, or the rearing of chicks from modified strains which give laying females and chickens. generous in meat.
These methods should be gradually rolled out from 2022. But, as in Germany, this will affect prices.