New developments in egg-sexing technology could bring an end to the hatching and culling of male layer chicks. With approximately 3.2 billion male chicks culled each year globally, the adoption of egg-sexing technologies would not only address ethical concerns, but also save producers significant resources.
Interest in the issue is growing in several markets. In the U.S., for example, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) recently announced a $6 million initiative – the Egg-Tech Prize – to stimulate development of technologies that allow the accurate, cost-efficient and rapid determination of the gender of layer chicks before they hatch. These technologies limit negative impacts on hatching rate, animal health and performance parameters, while still rendering the male eggs usable, for example as animal feed or in the cosmetics industry.
Hypereye is a patented scanning technology that uses non-invasive hyperspectral imaging, pre-incubation, to identify whether an egg is fertile, and whether it contains a male or female chick. Developed by Michael Ngadi at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, with funding from Ontario Poultry Industry Council, Egg Farmers of Ontario and the Livestock Research Innovation Corporation, the technology is based on the application of hyperspectral imaging of the eggs combined with advanced data processing protocols. Results have shown almost 100 percent accuracy in determining an egg’s fertility, although the precision for sexing is slightly lower.