Culling is the removal of rejected parts of a group. In the egg and foie gras industries culling refers to the removal and disposal of male chicks and female ducklings. Culling is done to increase profit margins and decrease expenses.
In the egg industy, the reasoning behind this is simple: certain breeds of chicken are better for meat (they grow very large, very quickly — called “broilers”), while other breeds are better for eggs (their egg production and quality is higher than that of other breeds). Because the male chicks of a specialized egg-laying breed are unable to produce eggs and are also unable to grow large or fast enough like broiler chickens, they are discarded, usually on the same day they hatch. The methods for “euthanization” (as the industry calls it) are to either send them down a conveyor belt that leads to a meat grinder, where the male chicks are literally ground up alive, or tossed into garbage bags and suffocated, or simply thrown into dumpsters or trash cans and left to suffocate under each other or simply die of starvation. Chick culling accounts for two hundred million male chick deaths per year in the United States alone.
In the foie gras industry, the reasoning for culling is that male ducks are prefered because they have meatier livers than females and therefore yield a higher quality product. The livers of female ducks are considered too “veiny” for foie gras. Like male chicks in the egg industry, female ducklings in the foie gras industry are often immediately disposed of in a similar fashion. They can also be raised for their meat, though this is less common.