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Video Shows Price of Cheap Eggs: Chicks Ground Up Alive

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The "food units" cascading down the conveyor in the video are sorted like apples, fine grade, rejects. www.mercyforanimals.org/hatchery

Except that the kinetic yellow balls--an undulating fuzzy mass-- are not pears or peppers but newborn chicks.

And they're being sorted into male, female and deformed--with male and deformed destined for death.

A video just released by Mercy For Animals from Hy-Line Hatchery in Spencer, Iowa, the largest hatchery for egg-laying breed chicks in the U.S., confirms what has been rumored for years about the egg industry: that newborn males which are worthless to the industry are ground up alive in chopping machines called macerators.

Video from a hidden camera clearly shows healthy male chicks, peeping and bouncing as they greet the world, fed into the blades of the macerator like so much litter. Hello! Goodbye!

"I saw a bloody slush coming out of the bottom of the grinder," writes the MFA investigator who worked in the Hy-Line "transfer room" and on the cleaning crew during May and June. "The plant manager told me that the ground-up male chicks were used in dog food and fertilizer."

Also shown in the Mercy For Animals video is the debeaking procedure in which chicks are inserted en mass into a laser cutter where they dangle by their beaks, struggling, while burns are inflicted that make part of their beak fall off in a week.

Nor does the egg industry want to waste any time letting a chick peck its way out of its shell to start its tour of duty on the egg farm, if it's female.

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The hatchery's "separator" machine efficiently disconnects newborns from their shells at the price of the few which fall to the ground or get caught in the machine and "washed" along with the equipment.

Asked about the panting, damp newborns on the floor, half born and half dead, a worker tells the MFA investigator, "Some of them get on the floor and get wet and then they're no good."

Like veal calves on dairy farms, egg industry chicks experience no moments with their mothers despite their innate biological urges. Their first memories will be of blades, pain and terror not of a mother in the mechanized hell the egg industry has devised to bring cheap product to the market.

Some veterinarians condemn the procedures shown in the video, which are both legal and accepted industry practices--including in so-called free range operations--and approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Hello?

"Intense pain, shock and bleeding result" from debeaking--which is done to offset the effects of crowding--and "some chicks may die outright in the process," says Nedim C. Buyukmihci, V.M.D., Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California who has specialized in farmed animals and chickens. "There is loss of weight because the chicks are too painful or disfigured to eat properly, sometimes because the tongue is injured or severed during the process."

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Illinois veterinarian Debra Teachout agrees.

The beak is a "sensory organ" necessary not just for grasping food, but for "preening, drinking, manipulating objects in the environment, nest building and defense," says Dr. Teachout. "As a practicing veterinarian, if I were treating a pet chicken of the same age that required a similar surgical procedure on its beak for therapeutic reasons, and I did not use anesthetics followed by pain modulation, it would be considered malpractice."

And maceration? A fate which greets 150,000 baby males a day at the hatchery according to the MFA investigator?

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)
 

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We are a sick, disconnect culture. Your article wa... by Judith Acosta on Wednesday, Sep 2, 2009 at 10:23:41 AM
3 months to be processed into chicken wings and mi... by Stanimal on Wednesday, Sep 2, 2009 at 5:14:06 PM
It does seem at the very least the egg industry sh... by Bea Elliott on Thursday, Sep 3, 2009 at 12:44:50 PM
I"m sure that if you wanted to take some of these ... by Bryan Emmel on Friday, Sep 4, 2009 at 4:42:36 AM