This was spurred from a recent related question. I started looking into whether male chicks are ground up. It makes sense that they are, but I'm having a hard time finding conclusive evidence.

Many egg farming operations macerate the male chicks. This is a seemingly innocuous word that literally means the male chicks get ground up alive.

Sentient Media: Egg Farming

France on Tuesday promised to outlaw the grisly practice of grinding up male chicks as soon as they’ve hatched, becoming the latest country to take a stand against an industry-wide procedure known as culling.

Washington Post: France says its poultry industry will stop shredding male chicks alive by 2022

How are agriculture industry standards, especially in industrialized countries, found? What is a source of good authority that basically says or shows statistically the number of farms that cull male chicks?

(I found a few research papers, but they were blocked by paywalls.)

Also, I realize the question title says 'most' while the first quote says 'many'. Although, just briefly looking into the egg/chick industry, I found that most animals are intensively farmed (otherwise known as factory farmed). Deductively, I take this to mean "most" is valid enough.

  • 20
    This question is yet another example that most people indeed do not know where their food comes from. Male hormones impart a gamy taste and a stringy texture to meat that many people do not like. This is a key reason why capons (castrated male chickens) are much preferred over roosters, and steers (castrated male cattle) are much preferred over bulls. Commented May 30, 2020 at 12:56
  • 5
    Note (regarding "most" or "many" farms) that these practices would only occur on hatching farms, which are a distinct minority of all farms. In general, the industrialization of farming means that most farms that raise chickens (as either broilers or layers) will purchase chicks from a grower rather than hatching their own. Likewise, the laid eggs are shipped elsewhere to be prepped for either hatching or sale. The large companies such as Purdue will have dedicated hatcheries that provide chicks for all farms associated with them. Commented May 30, 2020 at 23:39
  • 9
    You mentioned hitting paywalls in front of research papers, so I just wanted to let you know that in the future you can circumvent those paywalls by copy-pasting the link for the paper into sci-hub. Commented May 31, 2020 at 6:28
  • 3
    @NeilMeyer cultural hangover is a powerful force.
    – Tim
    Commented May 31, 2020 at 10:04
  • 3
    Funny enough, I just now noticed a "male chicks raised as well" sticker on my organic eggs package. You are not the only one being concerned. Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 9:11

2 Answers 2


The early to mid 1900s saw the division of chickens into breeds that produced lots of eggs versus breeds that produced lots of tasty meat. Males of the first type (egg layers) obviously don't lay eggs, and they don't grow large enough to produce lots of tasty meat.

It costs factory farmers much, much more in terms of feed and real estate to raise those subpar male chicks to a stage where they can yield even a small amount of substandard meat than it does to simply get rid of them shortly after they hatch (and their sex is determined). So they get rid of them. The specific mechanism used varies with country, but the end result is the same: male chicks of the egg-laying breeds do not live long after hatching. The European Union recommends that gassing young male chicks is the most humane approach while the US recommends instantaneous crushing young male chicks is the most humane approach.

There are moves afoot to sex the fertile eggs of egg-laying chicken breeds before the eggs hatch and destroy the male-containing eggs before they hatch, but it is arguable whether this is a difference that makes any difference. The eggs that contain male embryos will still be destroyed.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jamiec
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 8:07

The Wikipedia page on chick culling provides a good overview.

Note that quoted claims confuse the general practice of culling with the specific practice of maceration. Culling also includes other methods, such as gassing with carbon dioxide.


The American Veterinary Medical Association Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals (2020) support the use of maceration:

Maceration, via use of a specially designed mechanical apparatus having rotating blades or projections, causes immediate fragmentation and death of poultry up to 72 hours old and embryonated eggs. A review of the use of commercially available macerators for euthanasia of chicks, poults, and pipped eggs indicates that death by maceration in poultry up to 72 hours old occurs immediately with minimal pain and distress. Maceration is an alternative to the use of CO2 for euthanasia of poultry up to 72 hours old. Maceration is believed to be equivalent to cervical dislocation and cranial compression as to time element, and is considered to be an acceptable means of euthanasia for newly hatched poultry by the Federation of Animal Science Societies, Agriculture Canada, World Organization for Animal Health, and European Union.

Smithsonian Magazine reported:

On June 9 [2016], United Egg Producers, an egg-farming co-op that owns approximately 95 percent of the United States’ egg-laying hens, announced that it would do away with the practice. In a statement by The Humane League, an animal rights advocacy group that worked to secure the commitment by UEP, culling will stop “by 2020 or as soon as it is…economically feasible.”

[Note that the commitment was to cull the male embryos still in the egg, rather than waiting until after they hatch.]

However, in January 2020 the Sydney Morning Herald quoted

United Egg Producers president Chad Gregory said in a statement on Wednesday that his organisation remained committed to adopting new technologies aimed to stymie culling, a goal that he called both "a priority and the right thing to do".

But, he added, "A workable, scalable, solution is not yet available."

So, it isn't clear if they are still using maceration, but they haven't met their pledge to stop (post-hatch) culling.


A 2010 article from The Telegraph suggests maceration isn't the preferred method in the UK (although it is legal):

A spokesman [for the British Egg Information Service] said that male chicks are usually gassed rather than put alive into the macerating machines and the bodies are a `useful source of food' to captive reptiles and birds of prey.


A 2016 Triple J article confirmed it was "common practice":

According to John Coward from Egg Farmers Australia, maceration isn’t only common practice in the industry, it’s also considered the most humane way to “dispose” of male chicks.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .