Chick Shredding, Pet Food & Tyson Proteins
By Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns
“Killing day-old male chicks will soon be history.”
Poultry World, February 7, 2020.
German and French ministers of Agriculture have announced that their countries expect to stop shredding newborn male chicks by December 31, 2021.1 The Netherlands is set to follow, and Switzerland announced a ban on chick shredding starting January this year with the exception that “smaller” Swiss egg producers may gas their chicks with carbon dioxide.2
Each year, the global egg industry destroys 7 billion-plus newborn male chicks at the hatchery as soon as they are determined by the chick sexers to be roosters and thus useless, since roosters don’t lay eggs. Methods of destruction of chickens, turkeys and other unwanted birds, both male and female in all poultry sectors, include shredding (throwing them into grinding machines), carbon dioxide gassing, suffocation in plastic bags, and electrocution.
Even if chick “shredding” is banned, it does not mean that alternative methods of killing will not be employed as countries, including the United States and Canada, await the perfection of “economically feasible” technology and the assurance that markets are available for the “male eggs” in the form of processed ingredients. Markets include feedmills, aquaculture, calf milk, zoos, fur farms and petfood producers.3
Can a “Clean” Pet Food Industry Compete With Conventional Pet Food?
The benefits of an animal-meat-free diet for pets.
If a viable plant-based and cellular meat-based pet food industry were developed, it could probably compete favorably with the current pet food industry if the product was readily available, the price was right, and people would buy it.
Let’s consider the advantages of plant-based and cellular meat-based pet food, as described in a new book by three specialists in veterinary science, The Clean Pet Food Revolution: How Better Pet Food Will Change the World. Not having read the book yet, I’m relying on an interview with the authors by Marc Bekoff, PhD, posted January 8, 2020, on Psychology Today. Here’s what is said in the interview.4
A quarter of all meat consumed in the United States is eaten by our companion dogs and cats – equal to the amount of meat consumed by 26 million Americans. As more and more “pet parents” demand human-grade meats for their dogs and cats, 30 percent of intensively farmed animals are now being bred, raised and slaughtered specifically for pet food. Other hidden victims of the pet food industry are the dogs kept on “kennel farms” for use in pet food feeding trials.
The authors of The Clean Pet Food Revolution cite four key reasons for advocating a plant-based or cellular meat-based diet for dogs and cats: To improve their health since standard pet food is often contaminated; to reduce the number of chickens and other animals who end up as pet food ingredients; to help pet owners expand their circle of compassion by removing the barriers that distinguish “pets” from “food” animals; and to reduce the contribution of animal agribusiness to the human-caused climate crisis.
Novel proteins, such as cultured fungi and yeast-based dog food, along with cellular meat-based cat food, could remove some farmed animals from pet food. The Clean Pet Food Revolution explains why “cell-based, cultured or ‘clean’ meat has enormous potential to offer a more environmentally-friendly, sustainable, and ethical way to feed carnivorous cats.” Cellular meat-based protein, the authors contend, “is identical to animal meat in terms of nutritional composition, taste, and smell but not a single animal has to be harmed to make it.” Currently, though, isn’t slaughtered calf blood – fetal bovine serum – the nutrient medium in which cellular meat protein is grown in most laboratories? 5
Tyson Buys American Proteins
“Tyson builds on sustainability.” Feedstuffs, May 15, 2018.
A different perspective appears in a 2018 article in the agribusiness publication Feedstuffs. It describes the acquisition by Tyson Foods of American Proteins Inc. and AMPRO Products Inc. – the “international resource for processing allied poultry products.” 6
This acquisition is expected to enable Tyson “to recycle more animal products for feed, pet food and aquaculture, among other things, and expand its presence in the growing animal feed ingredient business.”
This business includes rendering – recycling – dead animals, mainly farmed animals, including shredded chicks and fish, into those cheerful packages beckoning pet owners at the grocery store. According to Tyson, “Rendering is an environmentally friendlier way to keep animal products out of landfills and potentially reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” since “no part of the animal goes to waste.”
The pet food industry is a $30 billion industry.7 American Proteins, based in Georgia and Alabama, has described itself as “the largest poultry protein and lipids conversion operation in the world, annually producing more than 750,000 tons of pet food and feed grade poultry protein meal and pet food and feed grade poultry fat and feather meal.”
Each week, a thousand truckloads of dead birds from poultry slaughter plants, hatcheries and factory farms have been described lumbering into the Hanceville, Alabama plant to be converted into either “pet-food-grade poultry meals and fat” or “feed-grade” versions for the livestock industries.8
All of this boils down to the fact that human beings consume animal products, although as noted, an entirely new sector is said to have emerged alongside traditional channels, wherein 30 percent of intensively farmed animals in the U.S. are now being raised specifically to become pet food for “fancy feast” and “fresh pet”-type buyers.
The Global Animal “Waste” Has to Go “Somewhere”
The blog site “There’s an Elephant in the Room” reminds us that “Despite the euphoria caused by the proliferation of plant based dietary options in shops and restaurants, the statistics don’t bear out the wishful thinking about veganism taking over the world any time soon.” What’s more, the “entire obscene increase is being borne by chickens.” 9
The current population of 7.8 billion people on the planet correlates with an increase of nearly 2.2 billion animals slaughtered globally since 2017. The number of slaughtered chickens rose from 66.5 billion in 2017 to nearly 69 billion in 2018. Add to chickens the millions of turkeys, ducks, guinea fowl and other birds slaughtered for food, and the number of birds totals 73.2 billion out of 77,056,246,402 billion land animals slaughtered worldwide in 2018.
These numbers do not include all the animals who die before slaughter. In the U.S. alone, millions of chickens die prematurely in the sheds and transport trucks each year of heat suffocation, freezing temperatures, medication reactions, and diseases. Most bodies are trucked to rendering companies. Surely, agribusiness will fight to keep “clean” pet food from threatening the lucrative business of recycling the daily mortalities and oversupplies of animal flesh and hatchery “waste” that have to go somewhere.
As animal advocates, we need to understand how chick killing, pet food, and animal-free meat fit together in the overall picture. The global farmed animal enterprise produces such massive amounts of inedible and over-produced carnage that, as long as billions of people consume animal products, it will require conversion into further commercial products. That is why agribusiness loves our pets and woos pet owners with packages promising to feed our companion dogs and cats just like family.
1. Meaghan Wray, “Germany, France push to end male chick 'shredding' in European Union.” Global News, January 16, 2020.
2. “Shredding of live chicks to be banned in Switzerland from January 2020.” The Local, December 27, 2019. Carbon dioxide activates brain regions in both birds and humans that involve the perception of pain. CO2 causes panic in response to the sensation of suffocation. Inhalation of CO2 is both painful and distressing because birds, like humans, have chemical receptors that are acutely sensitive to CO2. Ruth Harrison, the author of Animal Machines (1964), said she stopped endorsing CO2 after inhaling it herself. Regarding the gassing of day-old chicks, she said: “In my opinion, it is no better than the old practice of filling up a dustbin with them and letting them suffocate.” Quoted in Annabelle Birchall, “Kinder ways to kill.” New Scientist, May 19, 1990, 44-49.
3. Fabian Brockotter, “SELEGGT stops day-old-chick culling.” Poultry World, February 7, 2020.
4. Marc Bekoff, “The Clean Pet Food Revolution Will Change the World.” Psychology Today, January 8, 2020.
6. “Tyson acquires American Proteins, AMPRO Products.” Feedstuffs, May 15, 2018.
7. “Who Is In Your Dog's Food?” United Poultry Concerns link to Kate Bratskeir, “Should your dog be eating home-delivered, human-grade dog food?” Mic, November 27, 2017.
8. Karen Davis, “Pet Food, Bird Shredding & Embryo Sexing: Behind the Scenes.” United Poultry Concerns, September 7, 2016.
9. “Slaughter numbers jump by 2.2 billion.” There’s an Elephant in the Room, February 10, 2020.
KAREN DAVIS, PhD is the President and Founder of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl including a sanctuary for chickens in Virginia. Inducted into the National Animal Rights Hall of Fame for Outstanding Contributions to Animal Liberation, Karen is the author of numerous books, essays, articles and campaigns. Her latest book is For the Birds: From Exploitation to Liberation: Essays on Chickens, Turkeys, and Other Domesticated Fowl (Lantern Books, 2019).