No-kill chicken eggs go on sale in Germany

Every year in Germany 45 million male chicks are shredded or gassed to death because they don't produce eggs. Now eggs produced using a new method that isn't so brutal are in supermarkets.

The first eggs made using a new method that doesn't involve the mass killing of male chicks are hitting German supermarkets.

Germany | 26.02.2013

Every year, 45 million male chicks in Germany are thrown into mechanical shredders or gassed to death moments after coming out of their shells because they cannot lay eggs and are not as meaty as broiler chickens.

Read more: Scientists train laser beams on cruel practice of shredding newborn chicks

However, a new technique developed by German researchers at the University of Leipzig with funding from Agriculture Ministry allows hatcheries to identify the sex of chickens before they hatch.

"With this method there will no longer be a need in the long-run to kill male chicks," Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner said in Berlin on Thursday.

Although not all hatcheries use the procedure, Klöckner was optimistic that the method would be put into widespread use.

"This is a big day for the welfare of animals in Germany. And with this, we are the pacesetters in Europe," she said.

The first eggs produced using the new method are available in November at 223 Rewe and Penny supermarkets in Berlin. By next year, all of the supermarket chains' 5,500 stores will carry the so-called "Respeggt-Free range-Eggs."

Read more: 5 things you probably didn't know eggs can do

Germany's love affair with the egg

Beyond Easter eggs

Even though we all know bunnies don't lay eggs, pictures like this one still turn up at this time every year. In Germany, however, it seems that eggs' special status extends well beyond the Easter holiday. From breakfast to decor, Germans have a special relationship with eggs. Here's more.

Germany's love affair with the egg

The breakfast egg

Eggs are eaten all over the world for breakfast - scrambled, poached, boiled, or fried. In Germany, the soft-boiled egg is a requirement at every big Sunday breakfast. Typically, it is not considered a main dish and not eaten with an omnipresent bread roll, but stands alone in a dish of its own, like a work of art adorned only with a dash of salt. Usually the yolk - the "Eigelb" - is left runny.

Germany's love affair with the egg

The egg cup

Since eggs are neither flat nor perfectly round, they would wobble all over a plate. For this reason, the revered breakfast staple is granted a specially designed bowl of its own. In the land of design and engineering, this is a wide-open invitation for creativity. Egg cups can be found in unlimited variety. They usually include their own specially sized spoon and personal miniature salt shaker.

Germany's love affair with the egg

The egg cracker

A throne for the breakfast egg, a perfectly sized spoon and a tiny salt shaker are not enough. In Germany, you also have a highly specialized egg opening device known as an "Eierschalensollbruchstellenverursacher" (egg shell breaking point causer). By dropping the ball attached to the post, pressure is applied evenly in a ring around the top of the egg. The crown can then be cleanly removed.

Germany's love affair with the egg

A growing love

Germans are consuming more and more eggs. The industry organization Marktinfo Eier & Geflügel estimated that each person in Germany ate 235 eggs in 2016, up from 233 in 2015 and 231 in 2014. While many of those eggs are laid in Germany, imports are growing, particularly from Poland and the Netherlands. Over Easter, egg consumption rises only slightly. They're a year-round passion.

Germany's love affair with the egg

Status versus quantity

Considering the practically holy status of the German breakfast egg, one might think that the Germans are leagues ahead of the pack when it comes to total consumption. Each American, however, ate around 267 eggs last year, according to the American Egg Board - but there, scrambling up multiple eggs is more popular than a single pedastaled treasure. In the UK per capita consumption came in at 192.

Germany's love affair with the egg

Brown or white

Chicken eggs generally come in two colors, depending on the species. While white eggs were most common in Germany in the 70s and 80s, more egg eaters started buying brown eggs when the organic food trend began. They are considered to be healthier and more natural. In fact there is no difference between the two kinds - except for a bit of pigment. White eggs, however, are easier to dye for Easter.

Germany's love affair with the egg

Rainbow eggs all year round

Newcomers to Germany may be shocked to discover packs of dyed eggs in the supermarkets - in October. (Not refrigerated, by the way.) It's not an oversight. Last year, 475 million eggs were sold. Only a quarter of those were purchased during the first quarter, reported the "Süddeutsche Zeitung." But no matter when they're bought, does anyone anywhere in the world actually eat the dyed ones?

Germany's love affair with the egg

A slice here and there

Sometimes eggs turn up where you least expect them. If you order a sandwich in a bakery - one of those famous German bread rolls with ham or cheese, for example - a slice of egg will be thrown in for good measure. (And we truly mean one single slice.) The white and yellow add to the rainbow of condiments: You'll usually also find tomato, cucumber (one slice each) and lettuce (one leaf) inside.

Germany's love affair with the egg

The egg tree

Bunnies don't lay eggs; they grow on trees. It's a centuries-old German Easter tradition to decorate both full-sized outdoor trees and smaller indoor versions with colorful eggs, similar to a Christmas tree. The custom joins two internationally recognized symbols of life: the egg and the tree. The biggest Easter tree was maintained by the Kraft family in Saalfeld until 2015, with over 10,000 eggs.

How does the new method work?

Through the so-called SELEGGT procedure a laser burns a tiny hole in the egg shell. This allows for the extraction of a small amount of the allantois liquid from inside the shell.

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During the process, the egg is not harmed. Next, using a patented color marker the chick's sex can be determined by detecting the hormone estrone sulfate, which is only present by females. 

The male eggs are then separated and transformed into high-value animal feed.

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