Some vegetarians consume eggs because they say there is no blood, it’s unhatched, so there is no loss of life. It couldn’t be far from the truth. Behind every egg that is served on our planet, 7 billion male chicks lie dead for their production. Male chicks are a burden for poultry farmers as they need more females to produce eggs in the future. To grow them for meat is also not economical. So, they are killed. And they are killed mercilessly; some countries have machines like a paper shredder where they are shredded to pieces, some use toxic gas.
Israeli startup Soos Technology thinks they have a way to mitigate this issue. They have come up with a technology which will change the sex of the egg’s embryo before it even hatches. If the resultant chick was a female, it would go on to live till it was consumed or died of natural causes.
They aim to do this by using sound vibrations. They say these will induce a change in gene expression and ovary will form instead of testes.
“We are changing the sex of the chicken to dramatically decrease male chicks culled,” said Yael Alter, CEO of Soos to The Guardian. Though the current rate of expression is at about 60%, he thinks it is still helpful. At least those converted to female will not be shredded. The pilot project is being conducted at a few farms in Israel, one in Italy, and one in the USA.
“It is not yet widely accepted, but sound can be a biostimulation source at the cellular level that triggers gene responses,” said Masahiro Kumeta, one of the lead researchers.
The company uses speakers to expose the eggs to a loud continuous beeping noise for the first 13 days of incubation. Temperature, humidity, so on is also controlled in the hatchery. The sound, according to Soos, suppresses the gene that most biologists consider responsible for sex development in poultry animals- DMRT1. ZZ in chicks is male and ZW chromosome is female. Soos say their technology affects the “Z” chromosome, and the developing testes form into a functional ovary.
However, not everyone is convinced. Biologists and researchers Mike Clinton from the UK and Craig Smith from Australia claim that it is not possible to manipulate DMRT1 in chickens and get a perfect female. The hormones and other systems would still remain genetically male, they claim. Another team noted that their 60% success rate could be a fault of the sample size. In any good research, sample size matters a lot.
Whether or not Soos’s claims are true, only further corroborative studies can tell. Meanwhile, animal activists groups like PETA have claimed if it is true, it would be a game-changer in the industry.