In-ovo sexing 2020 pledge unlikely to be met

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The United Egg Producers‘ promise to have in-ovo sexing in commercial hatcheries by 2020 is overly ambitious given the progress of research currently underway, according to  Dr. Neil O’Sullivan, director of global product management, Hy-Line International.

Read the entire report about the in-ovo sexing pledge exclusively in the November issue of Egg Industry.

The egg industry is working vigorously to move to in-ovo sexing — the ability to sex eggs before incubation — but he told the audience at USPOULTRY’s 2017 Live Production, Welfare and Biosecurity Seminar, on September 19 in Nashville, Tennessee, that the technology isn’t ready for commercialization yet.

The humane euthanasia of day-old chicks has been challenged by animal welfare activists in recent years.

“Research has been underway to find methods to either in-ovo sex during the incubation process or, ideally, to gender sort the eggs prior to incubation,” O’Sullivan said.

Researchers all over the world are working to find a solution. O’Sullivan explained that, from what he can tell, the researchers in Canada are furthest along in the process. However, he explained that the group working on the project there has not opened the study to outside partners.

There is a cutoff date of 18 days of incubation for sexing embryos based on accepted practices used in the biomedical industry where chicken embryos are used in the production of some vaccines. To keep media and animal rights activist pleased, it is important to cut off the testing of eggs before they start to look too much like chicks, O’Sullivan explained.

In-ovo gender determination based on the hormone level in the allantoic fluid is known as endocrinological testing. The process takes place on Day 10 of incubation. This enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test looks for estronsulphate concentration in a sample of fluid which is removed from the egg.

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Deven King is an agriculture reporter. Contact King at

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