Israeli poultry start-up aims to stop culling of billions of male chicks

"There is a major focus on how to prevent the killing of those day-old chicks, for both welfare and economic reasons."

An illustration of LIVEgg's technology. (photo credit: PR)
An illustration of LIVEgg's technology.
(photo credit: PR)
Considered worthless by the egg and poultry industry, a staggering seven billion day-old male layer chicks are systematically culled worldwide every year.
While both male and female broiler chicks can be grown quickly for meat production, unwanted male layer chicks are perceived as serving no commercial purpose and are destroyed en masse.
Faced with both economic and increasing ethical pressure, finding an effective and efficient way to determine or engineer the gender of all chicks prior to hatching has become an industry priority. Gene editing has proved unfeasible due to restrictions on GMO produce reaching consumers, and hormone checking, while effective, has proved costly and prohibitively time-consuming.
An alternative solution is being developed by Israeli bio-tech company LIVEgg, headed by engineers with decades of experience in the poultry industry and electro-optics.
To avoid the killing of day-old male chicks and eliminate manual sorting procedures, LIVEgg’s ChickMale Saver solution uses sophisticated electro-optical technology and machine-learning algorithms to convert electrical signals and convert them into biological characteristics. The company expects to launch the solution next year.
“The technology is still under development but we believe this will be the solution as this is very cheap and can deal with 50,000 to 60,000 eggs per hour,” LIVEgg CEO Alon Blum told The Jerusalem Post.
LIVEgg CEO Alon Blum. (Credit: PR)
LIVEgg CEO Alon Blum. (Credit: PR)
“There is a major focus on how to prevent the killing of those day-old chicks, for both welfare and economic reasons, and predict what will be the gender of the egg as soon as possible, so we can dispose of them before they hatch. Even if we give layer chicks a lot of feed to eat, they will never grow to be broilers due to their genetic design.”
LIVEgg was established in 2015 by parent company Baram Group, a leading Israeli poultry producer. Given the centralized nature of the poultry industry, the company is targeting pilot programs with leading industry operators.
Last year, LIVEgg brought its first product to market, a real-time embryo monitoring system called CrystalEgg. The company’s non-invasive technology enables hatcheries to monitor embryo development, fertility rates and how many chicks are going to hatch.
“We are not bringing the data in a better-organized way. We are bringing a completely new set of information that was previously unavailable,” said Blum.
“Research has shown that our technology can increase hatchery production by about 1-3%, which is quite a lot in our business. The chicks we produce are also of better quality because incubation is optimized and the hatch is optimized. Talking about food security, the fastest growing protein from livestock is chicken.”
A further application of the technology, currently in an advanced stage of development, is to identify the fertility of eggs at day zero. Hatchery operators currently do not know whether eggs are fertile or infertile, leading to large quantities of costly biological waste after several days in the facility.
By identifying egg fertility as early as possible, Blum says, hatcheries can save space and increase profits.
“We believe the way to go to market is from top to bottom. Rather than going to small operations, we are going to the big companies and explaining how it affects their operations financially, and even how it affects their share of the market,” Blum said. “Once they apply the technology, we know the small ones will come anyway and be part of it.”