Chick Shredding, “Clean” Pet Food, Carnage

By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns

chicks in macerator
Newborn chicks are thrown into shredding machines for pet food.

Will Killing Day-Old Male Chicks Soon Be History?

German and French ministers of Agriculture have announced that their countries expect to stop shredding newborn male chicks by December 31, 2021. 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.

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 pet food producers.

Can a “Clean” Pet Food Industry Compete With Conventional Pet Food?

The Clean Pet Food Revolution cover

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 I learned.

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, slaughtered calf blood – fetal bovine serum – is the nutrient medium in which cellular meat protein is grown in most laboratories.

Where Does All the Carnage Go?

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.”

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.

What Can I Do?

As well as being vegan ourselves and getting others to join us, please explore vegan pet food options. We encourage everyone to learn all they can when considering these options. Discuss the diet with your veterinarian and learn more about vegan pet food products and nutrition from:

Evolution Pet Foods Shop
1081 Highway 36 East
Maplewood, MN 55109
Phone: 1-800-659-0104

Vegan Essentials
Companion Animal Products
Phone: 1-866-888-3426

chicks in a garbage bag
“Let us not be born.”
Hatchery photo courtesy of The Animals Voice