The respeggt group significantly contributes to ending chick culling in the near future. Thanks to the regular control of partner companies as well as clearly defined requirements and agreements, we can give the guarantee “Free of Chick Culling” with the heart-shaped respeggt label, which is visibly displayed on egg boxes and packaging of foodstuffs.
After 21 days of incubation, laying hen chicks hatch from fertilized hatching eggs. Normally, the male chicks that hatch with them are immediately killed in hatcheries because they cannot lay eggs. Only the female chicks are reared to lay table eggs once they have become laying hens.
At respeggt, we identify and sort out the male hatching eggs during incubation thanks to a gender identification process in the hatching egg. As a result, only female chicks hatch. We provide the service of sorting the hatching eggs and the process of gender identification in the hatching egg to all laying hen hatcheries. This service is performed by respeggt group free of charge for hatcheries and is billed later through a licence fee per respeggt laying hen to the packing centres. One of the major advantages of this approach is that small hatcheries are also able to compete on the market as they are not required to make any investment.
The fattening of respeggt male layer chicks means that male chicks are also reared and fattened. This fattening of male layer chicks is verified by respeggt group according to clearly defined requirements. These two solutions ensure that male chicks no longer need to be killed.
To guarantee the product promise “Free of Chick Culling”, respeggt group has developed the blockchain-based Supply Chain Monitoring System (SCMS). All female laying hen chicks that hatch under one of the solutions provided by respeggt group are called respeggt chicks. These respeggt chicks are tracked during their complete life cycle from the hatchery through the rearing farm up to the laying hen farm. By entering the producer code on the egg into the search function on http://www.respeggt.com/en, anyone can check whether the egg really is a respeggt egg. This is verified through mystery shoppers, incoming goods inspectors and consumers.
Because respeggt group always performs the processes of gender identification in the hatching egg and the fattening of respeggt male layer chicks itself, by using the SCMS, the product promise “Free of Chick Culling” is guaranteed. Eggs with the heart-shaped respeggt label on their packaging always come from a respeggt laying hen. So-called mass balance or book and claim approaches (aka certificate trading) are prohibited in respeggt supply chains.
We currently apply the SELEGGT process. The SELEGGT process was developed by Prof. Dr. Almuth Einspanier and her team at the University of Leipzig. On the ninth day of the incubation process, a small drop of liquid is non-invasively extracted from the fertilised hatching eggs. The drop of liquid extracted from the hatching egg is analysed using a marker to search for a specific gender-determining hormone. Male hatching eggs are sorted out and are used to produce animal feed. After 21 days of incubation, only female chicks hatch. These are reared and will later lay respeggt eggs when they have become laying hens.
Thanks to the fully automated SELEGGT process, gender identification can be carried out within one second per hatching egg. For further information, please visit: www.seleggt.com
In principle, respeggt group may also offer other processes of gender identification in the hatching egg to supply chains of egg production if these are fit for use and socially accepted.
We currently solely apply the SELEGGT process. This process has a success rate of approximately 97%. As a result, there will always be a certain number of male chicks in a brood of female chicks. These incorrectly sexed male chicks are not culled, as they would normally be in egg production, but are also reared. When they are at least 12 weeks old, the cockerels are sorted out at the rearing farms and slaughtered at a slaughterhouse. Because respeggt group compensates the rearing farm for incorrectly delivered male chicks, it can deliver the product promise that no male chicks are killed within the respeggt supply chains.
The technology for gender identification in the hatching egg is advancing rapidly. If we were to sell any expensive technical equipment to a hatchery today, its technology might soon become obsolete and possibly also be no longer competitive. Furthermore, the investment in technical equipment would mean that hatcheries that have just started using this technology would have to sell their chicks at a higher price than hatcheries that continue to implement the less expensive chick culling practices.
By providing the service of gender identification in the hatching egg free of charge to hatcheries (through our business model “Sexing as a Service”, or SaaS), respeggt group eliminates possible constraints and barriers to ending chick culling. The process of gender identification in the hatching egg is financed through licence fees for respeggt laying hens that the packing centre pays to respeggt group.
Eggs of very small and very large sizes, cracked eggs and egg surpluses are used in egg processing plants and egg product plants to manufacture egg products with a long shelf life (whole liquid eggs, egg powder, etc.). These products may also be manufactured using respeggt eggs, and foodstuffs, such as egg noodles, egg liqueurs and egg salads, with the heart-shaped respeggt label “Free of Chick Culling” are already available in selected supermarkets. The food industry also has an increased interest in visibly offering the added value of “Free of Chick Culling” for processed foodstuffs containing egg products. For this reason, respeggt group has defined clear requirements for egg processing plants and foodstuff producers to allow them to become part of a respeggt supply chain and mark their products with the heart-shaped respeggt label “Free of Chick Culling”. See our respeggt System Manual for further information on this topic.
Yes, respeggt group is an independent company. Consequently, we can provide any process of gender identification in the hatching egg that is fit for use to all of our supply chain partners in egg production. Any hatchery, laying hen farm, packing centre, foodstuff retailer or foodstuff producer may freely and equally make use of the services we provide as respeggt group for any genetic breed of poultry.
Currently, we carry out the SELEGGT process in respeggt Sexing Centres in Barneveld in the Netherlands and in a respeggt Sexing Unit in France.
In Barneveld, the capacity for gender identification by applying the SELEGGT process is sufficient to end chick culling in flocks of up to 100,000 laying hens per week.
We are constantly extending our capacities for gender identification in France according to existing demand.
To ensure an even faster end to chick culling, respeggt group also offers the fattening of respeggt male layer chicks. This means that we control the supply chain to verify whether the high respeggt requirements for the fattening of male layer chicks have been fulfilled.
These requirements include, among others:
- The male layer chicks for fattening have a hatching equivalence (meaning the male chicks come from the same brood as the female chicks, i. e. they have the same genetics, their parents come from the same flock and they are from the same hatchery).
- Material, such as pecking stones, straw bales and perches, must be available to keep the animals occupied.
- The construction requirements of and maximum numbers of animals allowed in the barns of male layer chicks are specified and verified.
- The feed must be free from genetic modification.
- The beaks of respeggt male layer chicks may not be shortened.
- The meat of the respeggt male layer chicks must be used to produce high-quality foodstuffs distributed within the EU.
- The respeggt group specifies which information and documents need to be provided for control of the supply chain.
The fattening of male layer chicks is organised and carried out by the respective respeggt packing centre. The rearing of these male layer chicks is verified according to the requirements developed by respeggt group (see annex 5.1 of the respeggt System Manual).
Consumers can search for the producer code on the consumer website http://www.respeggt.com/en. On this website, consumers can type in the code that is printed on the respeggt egg and thereby check whether the egg really comes from a respeggt flock. In addition, they can see which solution was applied to ensure the added value of “Free of Chick Culling” through one of the following messages: “Free of Chick Culling” thanks to gender identification in the hatching egg using the SELEGGT process or “Free of Chick Culling” thanks to respeggt’s fattening of male layer chicks. This offers consumers a high level of transparency and a high degree of safety in terms of the product promise.
At respeggt group, we believe that using dual-use breeds is generally the best solution, as this represents a holistic and sustainable approach. Unfortunately, however, no breed currently exists that achieves high laying performance in the field in female birds, and, simultaneously, the efficient and preferably also sustainable meat gain in male birds.
Until such a breed exists, we consider the fattening of male layer chicks and processes of gender identification in the hatching egg to be appropriate transitional solutions. When it comes to these solutions, respeggt group supports any approach that is socially and ethically acceptable and fit for use. For example, we only allow processes of gender identification in the hatching egg that are applied at the latest on the ninth day of the incubation process. Currently, respeggt group solely uses the SELEGGT process; we would, however, also implement further processes that are fit for use and socially accepted.
The fattening of male layer chicks is an important means to end chick culling quickly and efficiently. When carrying out the fattening of male layer chicks, however, one should take into account that this might lead to an inefficient use of resources, e.g. due to a higher consumption of feed that might have a greater negative impact on our climate. For this reason, respeggt group supports only those methods for the fattening of male layer chicks that fulfil respeggt’s high requirements.