UK Consumer Attitudes Towards the Egg Industry
Findings from Bryant Research’s 2023 Annual Survey – a nationally representative survey of 1,000 people across the UK on animal agriculture and food choices.
“One of the topics we explored in Bryant Research’s 2023 Annual Survey was attitudes towards the egg industry, and in particular, the prospect of in-ovo egg sex testing. The findings reveal broad support for the use of sex testing as an alternative to the slaughter of newly hatched male chicks. – Charlotte Flores & Billy Nicholles
The egg industry remains ethically contentious, in part due to its practice of slaughtering male chicks upon hatching. Male chicks are not able to lay eggs, and are considered too costly to raise for their meat – they are largely considered an ‘unwanted byproduct’ of industrial egg farming. In the UK, an estimated 29 million newly hatched male chicks are slaughtered each year.
The predominant slaughter method in the UK is inert gas, although maceration is also permitted, usually as a back-up method of slaughter. Male chicks are generally slaughtered within 72 hours of hatching.
Whilst some countries, including France and Germany, have banned the culling of male chicks, it is still standard practice in the UK. Various alternatives to the mass culling of male chicks have been suggested, including the use of in-ovo sex testing, which has advanced rapidly in recent years.
In-ovo sexing: the process of determining the sex of a developing chick inside the egg before it hatches
Determining the sex of an egg embryo at an early stage of development removes the need for male chick culling, with terminated male chick eggs usually used as animal feed, in pharmaceuticals or vaccinations, or destroyed. Some have argued that the technology brings with it its own set of concerns, including the possibility that embryonic chicks feel pain. However, it is generally regarded as preferable to the mass culling of male chicks after hatching.
1 Widespread lack of information regarding the practice of male chick culling.
In this survey, fewer than half of all respondents – just 41% – correctly identified that male chicks were killed upon hatching, with the majority of respondents being unsure or incorrect about the treatment of male chicks.
2 A significant majority of respondents uncomfortable with the practice of male chick culling
A significant majority of respondents – 82% – were uncomfortable with the practice of male chick culling, with almost half reporting feeling ‘very uncomfortable’. Only 1 in 10 respondents reported feeling any level of comfort related to the practice. This corresponds with findings from our previous survey, demonstrating that most consumers find a variety of standard industry practices in animal agriculture to be unacceptable.
3 Broad support for in-ovo sexing as an alternative to culling of male chicks
The survey also finds broad support for the adoption of in-ovo egg sexing in the UK as a replacement to the culling of male chicks after hatching.
77% of respondents supported the adoption of this technology, and only 5% of respondents disagreed with its adoption. In the absence of an outright ban of male chick culling, these findings should demonstrate to retailers the strong demand for a speciality egg category that assures the absence of the practice.