AUSTIN — Vital Farms’ new subsidiary, Ovabrite, in partnership with Novatrans, an Israeli technology company based in Tel Aviv, announced today the introduction of TeraEgg, a new technology designed to end the culling of male chicks, a standard industry practice that accounts for the death of up to 7 billion chicks every year. By investing in the research and development of TeraEgg, Vital Farms is furthering its mission to put the well-being of animals first and foremost in their business practices.
Because male chicks of egg laying breeds do not produce enough meat to justify raising them to adulthood, they are eliminated and disposed of by hatcheries through maceration, suffocation or other methods in a procedure known as male chick culling. Ovabrite’s TeraEgg detects gender and fertility in the chicken embryo development process, allowing hatcheries to remove male and infertile eggs before they enter incubation, so they can be repurposed for human consumption rather than destroyed post-incubation.
“The welfare and ethical treatment of animals has always been at the forefront for Vital Farms, not just for egg-laying hens, but all farm animals,” said Matt O’Hayer, Founder and CEO, Vital Farms. “While chick culling has long been an accepted practice in the egg industry, Vital Farms has been working for years alongside industry experts and animal welfare groups to evaluate and identify potential solutions to this practice. TeraEgg has the potential to be one of the greatest advancements in the recent history of animal welfare.”
TeraEgg promises to be the first viable solution to detect gender and fertility in eggs before incubation by analyzing organic compounds obtained through a proprietary technique developed by Vital Farms’ spinoff company Ovabrite in conjunction with Novatrans, a leader in terahertz-based applications. TeraEgg recently completed its early testing phase, making use of Novatrans’ terahertz (THz) spectroscopy to enable a non-invasive solution to the male chick culling practice that is currently the egg industry standard worldwide. By eliminating the practice of culling, TeraEgg will reduce energy costs and labor without disrupting hatchery operations, as well as create new revenue streams for hatcheries.
By spinning off Ovabrite as a separate entity, the entire industry – and global chick population – can benefit from this technology. As the worldwide demand for eggs continues to grow, so does the demand for female laying hens for production. Every increase in egg demand means a two-fold increase in hatched chicks, since half those chicks will be male.
“Animal welfare groups have long decried chick culling, but it makes a lot of sense to end the practice from a hatchery’s perspective, too,” says Paul Knepper, President, Ovabrite. “We estimate the value of wasted eggs – male and infertile – to be at least $440 million annually, with an additional $70-plus million in labor and energy to incubate and sex those eggs. I can’t think of another industry where you build out a product solely to destroy half of it before it ever ships. TeraEgg is giving these hatcheries a way to eliminate all that waste and produce additional revenue off of all their eggs, instead of just half.”
Successful completion of the early testing phase represents a major milestone for TeraEgg. Ovabrite will commence with scaled tests and beginning commercial product development with an anticipated launch in late 2017.
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