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Poultry industry fears competitive disadvantages

The killing of chicks will soon come to an end: the new draft law of 20 January 2021 provides for a ban on the killing of cock chicks. This makes Germany a pioneer. But the poultry industry is confronted with problems as a result: it supports the law, but criticises the federal government’s national go-it-alone approach and the resulting competitive disadvantages it faces.

“The exit from chick killing is correct. We as the German poultry industry expressly welcome this step, “said Friedrich-Otto Ripke, President of the Central Association of the German Poultry Industry (ZDG). For 15 years, research has been carried out on process technologies with which sex can be determined as early as possible and the killing of male chicks can be avoided. In Germany alone, 45 million chicks are killed each year.

What does the ZDG do? The ZDG is an umbrella and umbrella organization. He acts as a representative of the interests of the German poultry industry at federal and EU level in relation to political, official and professional organizations, but also to the public and abroad.

Serious disadvantages for the German poultry industry

However, the current draft law criticizes both the lack of factual basis and the scope of application, which is limited to Germany – two serious shortcomings for the poultry industry: Within the EU, eggs from hatcheries that kill male chicks shortly after hatching are still allowed. These eggs can also legally be found in German food retailers or processed in the bulk consumer segment. The female chicks from such hatcheries may also be housed as pullets in German stables.

As a result, the German poultry industry has to contend with considerable competitive disadvantages within the EU.

Smaller German hatcheries in particular are threatened

They cannot keep up and are facing the end. But the German hatcheries in particular have made a significant contribution to the current progress in animal welfare. According to Ripke, politics “should have become active at EU level with the aim of creating a binding legal framework for the European economic area”. But now he sees two areas in Germany at risk:

  • Germany’s already low self-sufficiency rate of around 70% and
  • the jobs in the poultry industry.

Deadline for the draft law on the ban on killing

By the end of 2021, all eggs that are produced in Germany should come from killing-free supply chains. Henner Schönnecke (Chairman of the Federal Egg Association) sees this as problematic even with a view to the current technology: gender determination procedures, dual-purpose chickens and young rooster rearing – the costs for this are in no acceptable relation to the current egg revenues.

Transition period necessary until at least 2023

More than 40 million female chicks hatch in Germany every year. This means that there should be roughly the same number of male chicks that are either not allowed to hatch or have to be fattened. But the numbers from 2020 show that this goal for the end of 2021 is utopian:

  • Approximately 6 million eggs were selected using the sex determination process.
  • At least 5 million male chicks were saved from death with the fattening of young cocks.

That’s just 11 million chicks rescued. Compared to the 40 million females that hatch each year, this is a negligible amount. The poultry industry therefore sees a transition period until the end of 2023 as necessary. But even then, it is unclear to them whether there is enough time.

The selection process is also too slow

In a second step, killing chicken embryos in the egg should be banned after the 6th day of incubation. With today’s technology a thing of the impossible. The current methods only allow sex determination in the period from the 9th to the 14th day of incubation. The selection process is therefore too slow and only suitable as a bridging technology. According to the draft law, this part of the ban on killing will be enforced after December 31, 2023. This means that research does not have much time to prepare for the changeover.

The exit is necessary

ZDG President Ripke emphasizes: “We as the German poultry industry want to get out of it with all practicable means!” But to ensure that, the concerns of the German poultry industry would have to be taken into account.