Candid camera footage of male chicks being ground up alive in a factory in Iowa has become one of today's most talked-about subjects on the Web. It's not such an outrageous way of getting rid of the birds however, a US farmer explains to us.
The video, filmed in May and June of this year by an employee of animal rights group "Mercy for Animals", was released on Saturday. It reveals the disposal methods of male chicks - useless for egg-producing companies - in a factory owned by the biggest egg-laying chicken producer in the US, Hy-Line. The factory in question is in Iowa but the group says it was chosen at random to illustrate the "standard procedure" of the company, which disposes of 200 million male chicks per year.
Factory farming poultry has become commonplace in developed countries in the past 30 years. In the UK, 99% of chickens are factory farmed, while in France, the number is lower, at 70%.
“Most places just throw them in a garbage bag and let them suffocate”
Sandra Miller runs a grass-based sustainable farm in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. She raises cows, goats, and chickens.
The most humane thing to do with chicks is to freeze them to death. Or gas them with CO2. That way they just go to sleep. Personally I slit their throats, but mine are older. Grinding them is an ugly way but it's quick. Most places just throw them in a garbage bag and let them suffocate, which is much worse.
The problem is that the industry has been completely industrialised. The law of the farm is that ‘if you're male, you're meat' - it always has been. You have to be realistic - what else are you going to do with them?! In the olden days people used to grow up their males to a good size and then put them in the freezer and boil them up later. Now industrialised farmers are looking for maximum profit and minimum hassle.
Personally I think they're grinding up money. You have to try to find a market for your by-products. For example, I've got a friend who breeds falcons. So she goes to the hatchery for baby males to feed to the raptors. There are plenty of zoos with reptiles fed on livestock, they could send them there. I've just butchered some males who were the most scrawny, pathetic looking things. The Kate Mosses of the chicken world. If someone gave me that at a barbeque I'd say, ‘you're not going to feed me that!' But they'll come in very useful for tacos or a salad later."