Edited Chicks May Mean a More Ethical Breakfast

Edited Chicks May Mean a More Ethical Breakfast

chicks and eggs

Vegetarianism and veganism is a hard road to travel, not least because it can be difficult to determine where your personal hard moral line is. For example, a lacto-ovo vegetarian won’t chow down on a piece of chicken, but will an egg, making a distinction between the different levels of animal exploitation they represent: a vegan will eat neither. But even if an egg itself doesn’t represent a death to a vegetarian, the industry that surrounds its production is filled with harm; including the mass killing of male chicks, who are valueless to the industry because they cannot lay more eggs.

But a team out of Israel’s Volcani Institute has devised a method to prevent this slaughter—by preventing male chicks from existing in the first place. They’ve done this, they claim, by gene editing hens to lay eggs that will result in only female chicks hatching.

“The scientists have gene-edited DNA into the Golda hens that can stop the development of any male embryos in eggs that they lay. The DNA is activated when the eggs are exposed to blue light for several hours.

Female chick embryos are unaffected by the blue light and develop normally. The chicks have no additional genetic material inside them nor do the eggs they lay, according to Dr Cinnamon [the project’s chief scientist].

‘Farmers will get the same chicks they get today and consumers will get exactly the same eggs they get today,’ he said. ‘The only minor difference in the production process is that the eggs will be exposed to blue light.’”

Certain jurisdictions in the EU are already banning the culling of male chicks, and simultaneously warming up to the idea of light genetic modification of livestock. If fully adopted, this innovation—not published, because the team wants to license it ASAP—will go a long way toward not having a world filled with roosters! And once scientists have the chance to make sure the resulting eggs are fit for human consumption, eaters will have one less moral choice to make before breakfast.