Category: chickens

A New Dutch Farm is Producing Carbon-Neutral Eggs. Here’s How.

Emission-Free Eggs

In recent years, free-range and organic eggs have become increasingly popular among people who are eager to support more ethical farming methods. Now, Dutch stores are stocking a food produced with the environment, as well as animal welfare, in mind: carbon-neutral eggs, meaning that no emissions are associated with their production.

These ‘Kipster eggs’ are the product of a new farm that’s been established near the Dutch city of Venray. It diverges from the techniques commonly used to yield organic and free-range eggs, which see chickens fed with human-grade corn.

“It makes no sense for us to be competing with animals for food,” Ruud Zanders, the poultry farmer and university lecturer behind the project, told The Guardian. “And 70% of the carbon footprint in eggs is accounted for by the feed for the chickens.”

The farm collects waste items like broken biscuits and rice cakes from local bakeries, along with other edible items that are set to be thrown away, and turns it into feed for the chickens. This has a twofold effect; it prevents the “competition” between humans and animals for the same food sources that Zanders refers to, and has a positive effect on the farm’s carbon footprint.

However, its choice of chicken feed isn’t the only effort the operation is making to limit its carbon emissions. It has also installed some 1,078 solar panels that provide more than enough energy for the farm itself, with any overage being sold back to the grid.

Hatching the Future

Based on the effect of these solar panels and the way the chickens are fed, a study by the Wageningen University found that the farm’s eggs could be considered carbon-neutral eggs. Zanders has said that if this status changes in the future, he will install further solar panels elsewhere to reduce CO2 emissions even further.

That’s good news, given that carbon emissions are one of the biggest problems of our time. A recent report commissioned by the United Nations stated that current levels haven’t been seen in three million years. With those emissions triggering rapid climate change and ocean acidification, there are pressing concerns that we could trigger a massive ecological disaster within the next century. Experts have suggested that the only way humans can survive is become carbon-neutral, or even carbon-negative.

Can We Come Back from Climate Change’s Brink?
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Fortunately, there are signs that things are beginning to change. China is shutting down factories, gas- and diesel-powered cars are seemingly on their way out, and there are ongoing efforts to establish ways of converting CO2 into a usable fuel source.

It’s going to take a unilateral shift across various different industries to ensure that we can address carbon emissions. Kipster eggs can’t do it alone – but they could certainly contribute to a greater endeavor.

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Genetically Modified “Surrogate” Hens Could Save an Entire Species

Surrogate Mother Hens

Genetically modifying (GM) animals to ensure the survival of a species is not a new concept. Last year, a biotech company announced their plans to edit certain genes in cattle that would enable them to produce plasma. The plasma would be used in humans to fight disease, which could potentially prevent outbreaks.

Now, a group of researchers wants to genetically modify chicks to support the survival of several different subspecies. These GM chicks would act as surrogates, laying an assortment of eggs that contain rare varieties of chicken species from all over the world.


The team responsible for this feat includes scientists working at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute. They’ve stated that in order for this all to work, the GM chicks have to be sterilized, meaning they will never be able to hatch eggs that are biologically their own. Sterilization in these chicks occurs through the deletion of a gene called DDX4, which is necessary to produce primordial follicles (the very beginnings of fetus formation). Their findings are published in the journal Development.

In 2016, a group of sterile GM chicks hatched at the Roslin Institute, making this the first time anyone has ever genetically engineered birds in Europe. In their next step, they will transplant follicles of the rare chicken species into the surrogate before they are even born.

Why Does This Matter?

The team has concluded that their ultimate goal is to create a complete gene bank of rare chicken breeds. One important reason for this involves the diversity that they’d bring into the gene pool. This genetic variation could potentially lead scientists to uncover a variant that is resistant to new forms of avian flu. “It’s not what we’re protecting in the breeds that’s important, it’s what those breeds represent in their genes,” stated Richard Broad, a field officer for the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

This gene bank, dubbed the ‘Frozen Aviary,’ will contain the frozen primordial follicles of rare birds that are readily available and could easily be inseminated into GM eggs. With this gene bank, scientists could bring extinct subspecies back to life, or even provide insurance for the survival of commercial breeds that are so quickly consumed by humans.

“We’re interested in chicken because that is the animal which is the most consumed animal on the planet and we want to protect all the different breeds of chickens that we have,” said Michael McGrew, an author of the study.

The Frozen Aviary currently contains the preserved genetic material of 25 different breeds and over 500 samples from individual chickens. The team hopes to expand their work in the future to involve different breeds of ducks, geese, quail, and possibly the endangered golden eagle. Unfortunately, their GM chicks cannot lay eggs containing a completely different species, so they would all have to find their own suitable surrogates. However, the basic principles of this study could, theoretically, be used with all of these different species.

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