The problem: male laying hen chicks are killed and disposed immediately after hatching. In Switzerland, this concerns about 2.5 million animals every year.
While little attention was paid to this fact in the past, there are now efforts i.e. an increasing pressure towards moving away from the practice. In September 2013, for instance, the North Rhine-Westphalian Consumer Protection Ministry issued a regulation banning the killing of male day-old chicks (DGS Magazin 40/2013, p. 6). Other German Länder might follow suit (Der Spiegel, 42/2013, pp. 84-85), also the Netherlands (Leenstra, personal communication). Switzerland is currently discussing a ban as well, which is being demanded by animal rights groups. Switzerland is one of the few countries which rears organic parent animals, and is therefore 'required' to kill male chicks even in the organic production of organic chicks. This evidently does not comply with the organic idea of sustainable closed-production cycles.
Following economic and ecological considerations, Dutch scholars conclude that dual-purpose animals can hardly solve the problem of killing male chicks, whereas fattening of male chicks from laying hens achieves by far the best result in both aspects (Leenstra et al., 2010).
It is, however, problematic to rear roosters on large quantities of highest-quality fattening feed. New results from the Core Organic II Project ICOPP (www.icopp.eu) show that, for fattened poultry, 20% of the cereal portion can be replaced by high-quality roughage (e.g. silage) without loss of performance, and that the meat quality of those animals undergoes a positive change (fatty acid pattern).
It is feasible that the roughage share for roosters of the laying type could be increased further during certain phases of rearing. Depending on its production, the use of roughage in animal nutrition may imply that natural grassland is used, lowering the pressure on production on arable land, which in turn would be ecologically and socio-economically positive.