Scientists in Germany have found a way to determine the gender of a chick before it hatches, potentially ending the need to slaughter male chicks.
Over 45 million male chicks are slaughtered every year in Germany alone as they are considered useless in modern poultry farming.
Female chickens are normally used to farm meat and eggs as males lay no eggs and take too long to grow.
Therefore, an estimated 6 billion chicks are culled each year globally by suffocation, grinding, shredding and processing into reptile food.
After four years of research, a group of scientists in Germany has found a way to determine the gender of a chick before it hatches, potentially ending the need to cull the males.
And the first eggs from this process are now being distributed to German supermarkets.
Using the “Seleggt” process, farmers can determine the sex of a chick nine days after fertilisation. The male eggs can be processed into feed for pets and livestock leaving the female chicks to hatch.
"Such a process needs to work simply and be marketable," said Dr Ludger Breloh, managing director at Seleggt. He added the technology can be used in hatcheries to "eliminate the need for chicken culling."
The process uses a laser to burn a hole of no more than 0.3 millimetres into an eggshell.
Fluid is extracted in a non-invasive way and placed on a marker. A colour changer is then used to test for the hormone estrone sulphate - only present in female chicks.
After the Seleggt team made the breakthrough, they embarked on finding a way to make the test easy enough for everyday use at hatcheries. Breloh collaborated with Dutch company HatchTech in making a machine to carry out the testing.
Supermarket company Rewe group are now rolling the eggs out across Germany. Supermarkets will need to pay a few extra cents on eggs sold with the "respeggt" seal.
There also plans to roll the model out across Europe.
"Once the process is made available to all and the hatcheries have implemented the process, there will be no reason and no justification for chick culling," said Julia Klöckner - German minister of food and agriculture which funded the project.
"Regardless it is important not to lose sight of the dual-use breed and to support it."