Do your eggs come from a certified humane producer? Please read this article anyway because it may apply to you, too.
This post is not about plastic. And the information I’m going to share is gruesome, alarming, and heartbreaking. I’ve been sitting with this knowledge all weekend but didn’t want to write a post until I had more information and ideas for action that we can take. Please read on if you care about the welfare of farm animals, and especially if you enjoy eating eggs.
A Shocking Revelation
Last Thursday, Michael forwarded me an article and video about a practice that seems so cruel it takes my breath away. The article, “Video Shows Price of Cheap Eggs: Chicks Ground Up Alive” describes a video posted on YouTube by the group Mercy for Animals revealing some pretty inhumane conditions at a facility that hatches chicks for egg producers. The video, Undercover Investigation at Hy-Line Hatchery, shows chicks being roughly handled as they go down a conveyor belt as humans separate out the males from females, tossing the males down a chute where they fall into a machine called a macerator and are ground alive.
Apparently, this is a very common practice. The males are undesirable because a) they can’t lay eggs and b) the males of the species raised for eggs are not good meat producers. And apparently, this practice is considered humane by several regulatory agencies.
I was shocked, appalled, and sickened by what I saw. But I also thought I couldn’t be contributing to this problem because I get my eggs from the farmers market, from Glaum Egg Ranch, a certified humane egg producer. But just to be sure, I made some inquiries. I called and emailed both Glaum Egg Ranch and also Humane Farm Animal Care, the organization that certifies farms as humane. I wanted to know what standards existed about this practice, and I wanted to learn how Glaum treats its male chicks.
Certified Humane Does Not Apply to Hatcheries
What I learned is that Glaum doesn’t engage in this practice because it doesn’t hatch its own eggs. In fact, few egg producers do. They buy their eggs from pullet producers which buy their eggs from hatcheries. Which means that humane egg producers may be inadvertently supporting this practice through the chicks they buy! Since this news was revealed, Glaum has been doing its own investigating. They are as concerned about this practice as we are. I’m concerned that my certified humane eggs may have originated from chicks hatched at one of these inhumane facilities. And Humane Farm Animal Care does not have a standard for certifying hatcheries because it simply does not have the resources to do so.
I had a really great conversation this morning with Adele Douglass, Executive Director of Humane Animal Care, who explained to me a little history of the organization and how it came about. Adele had worked for many years in congress and for several organizations lobbying for the welfare of animals. Eventually, she got involved in rewriting agricultural guidelines, so she’s seen how slow the wheels of government turn. As a consumer, she felt overwhelmed and powerless by the mailings she would get from organizations like PETA, that simply offered no other alternative to consumers than complete veganism. She wanted to find a market solution, and that’s why she and several friends created the Certified Humane labelling program, investing all the money they had in something they believed in.
Humane Farm Animal Care is primarily concerned with the treatment of animals being raised for food and for eggs. You can read the details of the standards on their web site. And the organization actually audits every single farm that requests certification. Regarding hatcheries, here is what Adele wrote me:
We did not write hatchery standards because we did not have any control of the hatcheries. The farmers, as I said, purchase the birds from pullet growers. We do not have the resources to inspect all the pullet growers and then trace back and inspect all of the hatcheries in the US, considering the small number of farmers that are on our program. Every standard must be inspected and audited for. There is no point in writing standards unless you have the capacity to inspect, annually, each and every standard.
That said, the organization absolutely DOES NOT advocate the practice of live male chick maceration and would like to see it stopped.
We Can Take Action!
Besides eschewing eggs, there are other steps we can take to see that this practice is ended as soon as possible. Adele Douglass also told me that research is being done into a procedure for sexing male embryos so that the chicks do not have to actually be hatched and killed. She suggests we write to the Secretary of Agriculture to express our concerns about the treatment of male chicks and ask that funds be allocated for research into alternative methods for sexing males to avoid inhumane treatment.
Honorable Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Room 200-A The Whittenberg Building
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Mr. Secretary:
I am appalled by the practice of live male chick maceration that is routinely practiced in hatcheries. There is promising research on sexing embryos which would eliminate the current methods of male chick euthanasia. The USDA can help end this inhumane practice by putting funds toward research into sexing embryos. I would like to see this procedure developed as soon as possible to end the suffering and waste created by the painful destruction of so many live birds.