Consumer goods giant Unilever will stop utilizing maceration, the process of grinding up baby male chickens they cannot use. Instead, the company is creating a technology to determine sex before the chicks hatch.
Baby chicken on a chicken farm, close up
On Wednesday, the world's third largest consumer good company, Unilever, announced that it would stop using the widespread practice of maceration, calling it a “little known form of cruelty within the egg industry.”
Maceration, the process of grinding up day-old male chicks, is used frequently by corporations who need eggs from female chicks but have no use for males. Unilever purchases more than 350 million eggs a year for brands such as Best Foods, Hellmann's mayo, Ben & Jerry's, and Slim-Fast, and is now the first and only major user to take a public stance against maceration.
Instead of killing the chicks, the company will work with industry leaders to create a technology that determines the sex of a chicken embryo long before it hatches.
“By determining the gender of embryos long before they hatch, in-ovo sexing will eliminate the need to incubate and hatch male chicks, sparing millions of baby birds each year from the stressful process of manual sexing and killing,” the company said in a press release.
The Humane Society of the United States, along with Farm Forward, The Humane League, and Compassion in World Farming, have shown support for the company's decision.
“Discarded like trash, these baby birds—hundreds of millions of them a year, just in the United States alone—are dumped into massive grinders while fully conscious, or sometimes simply thrown live into trash bags to suffocate, on the first day of their lives,” the Humane Society said in a public statement.
The Humane Society went on to praise the Unilever decision:
While no egg company has pledged to address this systemic abuse in the near term, Unilever announced today that it's going to do so, having judged the mass killing of the chicks unacceptable in the long run. The company is now working to make a technology commercially and scientifically viable that would determine the sex of embryos in eggs long before they get out of the egg, so that they don't hatch and create a terrible moral problem. Needless to say, success in this effort would eliminate a vast amount of suffering—chicks endure stressful handling even prior to being killed in hatcheries—for hundreds of millions of animals annually.
Ben Goldsmith, the executive director of Farm Forward, said that the egg industry “has a terrible track record when it comes to animal welfare, and grinding millions of animals while still fully conscious is just one example.”
“We applaud Unilever's announcement as well as the leadership it continues to show in listening to consumer calls for humane treatment of animals.”