Unilever Seeks Alternatives to Killing Male Chicks in the Egg Industry

Farm Forward Applauds Company’s Animal Welfare Progress

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(PRWEB) September 04, 2014

The world's third largest consumer goods company is taking a stand against a widely used but little-known form of cruelty within the egg industry: the killing of day-old male chicks deemed worthless for egg production. Since only female chickens lay eggs, the egg industry doesn’t have any use for the male birds. Its solution is to treat these chicks like garbage: millions of baby birds each year are gassed, suffocated in plastic bags, or ground up alive in a process they call “maceration.”

Unilever, which purchases more than 350 million eggs each year in the U.S. alone for brands including Best Foods and Hellmann's mayo, Ben & Jerry's, and Slim-Fast, is the first and only major egg user to take a firm stance against this cruel practice. Its announcement is the latest in a series of industry-leading animal welfare policies that have won Unilever accolades from farmed animal advocates around the world.

Unilever's position, which the company has posted on its global website, is a pledge to work with egg industry leaders and the animal welfare community, and devote R&D resources to developing and implementing alternatives to the current industry practice. Specifically, Unilever will provide financial support for research and market introduction of in-ovo gender identification technology. 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. Unilever's position also highlights its exploration of egg-replacement ingredients for its products.

“Like the poultry industry as a whole, 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,” said Ben Goldsmith, Executive Director of Farm Forward. “We applaud Unilever’s announcement as well as the leadership it continues to show in listening to consumer calls for humane treatment of animals.”

This announcement follows a 12-week consumer education campaign from Farm Forward and dialogue between Unilever and animal protection organizations including Compassion in World Farming, The Humane League, and The Humane Society of the United States. Farm Forward has a long history of bringing together disparate interests toward the common goal of reducing suffering for farmed animals.


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