Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Won't Be Watching This Video

But I do have questions about the subject:

An animal rights group publicized a video Tuesday showing unwanted chicks being tossed alive into a grinder at an Iowa plant and accused egg hatcheries of being "perhaps the cruelest industry" in the world.
The group said that tossing male chicks, which have little value because they can't lay eggs or be raised quickly enough to be raised profitably for meat, into grinders is common industry practice. United Egg Producers, a trade group for U.S. egg farmers, confirmed that.
"There is, unfortunately, no way to breed eggs that only produce female hens," Head said. "If someone has a need for 200 million male chicks, we're happy to provide them to anyone who wants them. But we can find no market, no need."

Using a grinder, Head said, "is the most instantaneous way to euthanize chicks."

I'm hoping someone knowledgeable about chicken raising will chime in here. Is it accurate to say that male chicks can't be raised profitably for meat? Are there other possible uses for 200 million male chicks a year? Does a grinder truly provide an instantaneous death? As I said, I won't be watching the video but I'm assuming it's some kind of industrial grinder. I imagine the meat grinder I have in my kitchen would provide a slow, painful death for a live chick. And does anyone know what is done with the ground up chicks? I'm guessing livestock feed or pet food.


Rinalia said...

The video isn't all that graphic.

I don't know how familiar you are with chicken breeds. Hy-Line hatcheries (featured in the video) is the world's largest provider of hens for the egg-laying industry as well as embryos for the vaccine industry. They have several lines of chickens and all are either white leghorn crosses or brown leghorn crosses.

Leghorns are small. Like really small. Even the healthiest feel slender and tiny. It takes them several weeks longer to reach their full mature size than, say, your broiler (a cornish rock cross).

So yes, they could be raised for their flesh. But it would not be cost-effective especially when you can grow a 5-lb broiler in 6 weeks on a very small amount of food. It's a lot cheaper to kill the male chicks the day they are sexed. A lot cheaper. There's just no way 200 million roosters who take 4-6 months to reach full size could compete with the 9 billion broilers who reach slaughter weight in 6-7 weeks on a whole lot less food.

The AVMA believes that maceration is an appropriate method of killing day-old male chicks. I imagine if the animal goes in head first, death is pretty darn fast. Less so when feet first. If you compare it to the two other methods of slaughter - gassing and suffocation, maceration is certainly less cruel than suffocation. Gassing is pretty stressful and takes a lot longer than grinding.

I'm not sure what happens to the ground chickens - if anything, they are either discarded or, more likely, used in animal feed.

YesBiscuit! said...

Thanks very much for your input Rinalia - good info to know. I frankly can't think of a realistic alternative for what to do with the male chicks. I have thought of a number of unrealistic ideas though. I'll keep my thinking cap on.

CyborgSuzy said...

I worked for a reptile rescue/breeder and they used unwanted young roosters as snake/lizard/gator food. The hatchery either gave the chicks away for free or very cheaply, and the rescue fattened them up for a few weeks before they became food. For the rescue, a few weeks worth of chicken feed and maintaining a chicken coop wasn't burdensome. But that's only a solution for a couple hundred birds a year.

EmilyS said...

"maceration". oy
It still doesn't seem right, though I'm willing to concede that seeming wrong isn't the same as being wrong...

KateH said...

Wildlife rehab places that have birds of prey often use day old chicks as food. The chicks have to be gassed though, and often, since there are so many in the containers, they don't all die right away. Sadly, it's not a quick death, but that is another use for them.

Heather Houlahan said...

Rinalia is correct about leghorns cockerels as meat birds -- except it would be many months longer than raising a Cornish X, and you'd get a bird about half the size, bony and tough. It is not economical at all. And leghorn cockerels are beyond obnoxious. Nobody wants a few hundred of those boogers in a poultry shed or out on pasture.

As the unwilling owner of six Delaware cockerels who have just been relegated to the chicken tractor in order to fatten up instead of gang-raping and terrorizing my hens, I can attest that raising extra roosters is not commercially feasible.

I do not know about a better alternative than maceration, except -- the chick sexers are holding the chick when it is sexed. Why not break its neck right then?

"Cervical dislocation" is widely considered the most humane way of slaughtering a chicken, or euthanizing a suffering bird. It's shockingly easy with an adult bird, even a ten-pounder. With a just-hatched chick, no effort at all.

Gina Spadafori said...

Heather, as usual, you just make too much darn sense.

Caveat said...

I'm not much into chickens but I was thinking the same thing, Heather. Just break their necks.

btw There are those delicious capons but I imagine they take a long time and special care to raise.

Anonymous said...

Here's an idea in which no baby chicks or any other animal will have to suffer.......go vegan.