Is it possible to change a chicken’s sex before it hatches?

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Billions of unwanted male chicks are slaughtered by the farming industry. Now a startup claims to have found a surprising solution to the problem

The eggs we eat have a hidden cost. About 7bn male chicks are killed worldwide every year to produce them. Farmers need to replenish their supply of egg-laying hens but, by nature, half the chicks that hatch are male and growing them for meat is uneconomic – that industry uses faster growing breeds. In many countries they are tossed into shredding machines, although in the UK they are gassed.

But what if those male chicks could instead hatch out as functional females, able to grow into egg-laying birds? That’s the vision of Israeli startup Soos Technology. Founded in 2017, the company, which has received $3.3m in investment and prize winnings, wants to make commercial hatcheries kinder and more economic by changing the effective sex of poultry embryos as they develop.

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