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Terahertz scans could save male chicks from an untimely end

TeraEgg determines the sex of a chicken's egg well before it hatches, sparing it from the grinder.
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Bernd Wustneck/AFP/Getty Images

Chicken hatcheries often grind up male chicks as soon as they break out of their shells -- they don't produce enough meat as adults, so they're considered useless compared to the egg-laying females. It's not exactly compassionate, and it wastes money as hatcheries incubate eggs they'll never use. However, technology might just have a way to prevent such a horrifying fate. Vital Farms and Novatrans are partnering on TeraEgg, a technology that uses terahertz spectroscopy to identify the sex of a chicken well before it hatches. The technique traps and analyzes the gas emanating from the pores of eggs, identifying the sex (or infertility) within seconds. You can use it as soon as 2 days after the hen lays her eggs, or early enough that you can sell the male eggs as food.

TeraEgg is starting out slowly with "scaled tests," and a full launch is expected by late 2017.

The terahertz technology could be tremendously appealing to animal welfare advocates, who are understandably upset by the mass deaths of chicks (up to 7 billion every year, Vital Farms says). It won't make you completely happy if you object to eating any animal products, but it would be far kinder than what you see today. And the egg industry should save money in the process. Along with making better use of each egg, it'd let hatcheries reduce the number of inspectors and spend less energy heating eggs. It's theoretically a win for everyone, no matter what you prefer to eat.

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