Dresden (Germany) (AFP) – In a cellar of Dresden University, German scientists are active refining a technique that could save millions of downy chicks from being shredded to passing minutes after they hatch.
The young hatchlings are generally condemned to a violent ending just since they’re not female, as roosters are deemed mostly worthless in the universe of livestock farming.
Not only are they unable to lay eggs, their meat is especially unpopular.
Male chicks are so methodically eradicated. Most of the time, they can be crushed to death and used as animal feed or shredded.
At Dresden’s University Clinic, by finding the sex of chicks before they hatch analytic chemist Gerald Steiner and his team are working to prevent such mass culls of newborns.
Steiner uses a spectroscopic technique, based on blood vessels on the evaluation of isolated light, to ascertain the gender of chick embryos in the egg.
Spectroscopy is used in cancer treatment as it helps to distinguish between healthy and strange cells.
“If we’re capable to identify a tumour, then why not the sex?” said Roberta Galli, a physicist.
Several teams of scientists — including veterinarians, chemists, engineers and physicists — are collaborating on the job, which likewise contains the involvement of two private companies.
In her co-worker, Galli and the lab Grit Preusse take eggs out of the fridge to present their technique.
The eggs have already been incubated for three days and blood vessels had by now formed.
“But not the nerve cells, so they can’t feel pain,” Steiner described.
The team considers that from an ethical standpoint, it’s preferable to determine the chick’s destiny rather than after, it hatches.
Using a laser beam, a small circle is traced by the scientists on top . By means of this they are able to see veins in the yolk, together with find the flutter of a miniature beating heart.
The egg is subsequently put in the spectrometer — a big black box — and immediately, the biochemical properties of the embryo’s blood are shown on a display.
“To the naked eye, we can’t see the difference (between male and female embryos) but the computer can, if it’s programmed to do so,” said Steiner.
His team has been fine tuning the programme over recent years, and they have it down to a recognition accuracy rate of 95 percent.
In a procedure which should finally take just a couple of minutes, an egg featuring a male chick is lost pre-arrival, while one then returned to the incubator and featuring a female chick is fixed up with a plaster.
A number of days after, a chick that will be a laying hen hatches.
Steiner considers that some use will finally be located for the unwanted embryos that are man — be it even or as fish feed in shampoo.
‘PILING ON PRESSURE’
Beyond the challenge of discovering a technique that’s minimally invasive and which would enable the female “chicks to hatch and be in good health”, another significant factor is that the system must have the possibility to be automated, said Preusse.
The strategy will be to have a hole drill in the egg, while another machine removes the male ones, fixes up the female eggs and identifies the sex.
A startup in Dresden is now working on developing.
But one major question is — when?
In Germany, the time has political resonance.
With a people that’s growing concerned about animal welfare, Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt had assured that 2017 would, male chicks sent to be oppressed.
At the exact same time, Schmidt is instead counting on Steiner’s research, and is refusing to impose an outright prohibition — which the ministry is financing — to deliver.
“The politicians are stacking on pressure ahead of the 2017 elections,” said Steiner, who said he was getting phone calls “every week” from the ministry, ready for an upgrade.