In a dramatic breakthrough with the potential to halt the destruction of an estimated seven billion unwanted male chicks globally each year, Israeli scientists have produced a flock of hens all named Golda that are the first in the world to lay eggs that only produce females. , the developers said on Tuesday.
The technology has been in development for seven years, with embryology expert Dr. Yuval Cinnamon leading a team at the Israel Agricultural Research Organization – Volcani Center, in collaboration with Poultry by Huminn.
“The size of the world egg-laying market is estimated at around 7 billion laying hens, and for every hen, one male chick is culled. The world’s table egg production is estimated at more than two trillion eggs a year, more than 80 million tons,” Cinnamon told the Times of Israel.
“We are very happy to be able to provide a viable solution to… the most devastating animal welfare problem in the livestock industry worldwide, for the benefit of animals and humanity,” he said.
Male chicks hatched from laying hens cost more to care for than they would ever sell as meat, unable to compete with broilers, or “broilers,” which hatched from a different type of hen. Broilers are typically larger breeds with more muscle content, chosen because they grow very large, very quickly. Although broiler hens also lay eggs, they lay them much less often than laying hen breeds. Laying hens (“layers”) are leaner and smaller.
The scientists’ finding has the potential to nearly halve the cost of hatching and eliminate the investment currently required to sort and dispose of male chicks by unsavory methods ranging from smothering and gassing to being ground up while still alive.
The technology was announced last year with the hatching of the first Golda chicks. The variety is named Golda after the color of the chickens, not after the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, although a spokesperson said it was a happy coincidence.
Since then, chicks have grown into adult hens and laid their own eggs, and the technology has proven to work.
Roosters carry the Z chromosome while hens carry Z for males and W for females. The mating of two Zs results in the birth of a male chick. If the mother supplies the W chromosome to the father’s Z, a female chick will emerge.
The research team has discovered a way to genetically modify the chicken’s Z chromosome so that eggs carrying male embryos stop developing at an early stage and do not hatch.
Golda eggs are fertile eggs from which only females hatch and these female chicks then lay table eggs.
The resulting chicks are not genetically modified in any way because they inherited the unmodified W chromosome from the mother and the intact Z chromosome from the father.
According to a statement from the Huminn company, the European Union’s director general for health and food safety has reviewed the technology and confirmed that both Golda line laying hens and the eggs they lay can be sold without any regulatory changes.
Cinnamon added that the US FDA was evaluating the research and that he hoped they, along with the Israeli Agriculture Ministry, would follow suit.
This development comes as demand for eggs is projected to increase 50% globally from 2020 to 2035.
The Golda hens will be raised on poultry farms, while their offspring will be sold to farmers for the production of unfertilized eggs to eat.
Yaarit Wainberg, CEO of Poultry by Huminn, added: “In recent years we have seen a shift in awareness around the world regarding animal welfare, but on the other hand no practical solutions have been identified to stop the unfortunate phenomenon. of the killing of male chicks. We are proud and excited to be the first in the world to offer an effective solution, with a significant contribution to the entire value chain, all based on Israeli science and innovation.”
A spokeswoman for Huminn and the Volcani Center explained that there were no photographs of the mature Golda hens due to the need to maintain total sterility in the laboratory. Once the variety goes commercial, they will live like any other laying hen.
Huminn, founded five years ago under the name NRS Agro Innovation, is an American-Israeli innovation company that helps create and commercialize innovative solutions in health, nutrition, environmental quality, and human and animal welfare.
He has signed several strategic partnerships with Israeli organizations. In addition to the Volcani Center, these include the Weizmann Institute of Science, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the National Institute of Biotechnology in the Negev.