REWE Group is to become the first food retailer in Germany to use the early feeding system where birds receive feed in the incubator rather than being left unattended for up to 36 hours.
The early feeding system means freshly hatched chicks are given immediate access to water, feed and light, giving them a head-start in life. This compares with classic incubators where individual birds receive nothing, with the result that the early hatched chicks lose up to 10% of their hatch weight through dehydration and lose vitality and robustness.
It is the hatching window, which can last up to 36 hours, which causes the problems and additional stress is created with the traditional sorting gates and counting devices, in which the chicks are automatically separated from eggshells and placed in transport crates.
This is followed by direct truck transport to the agricultural fattening farms, which can take several hours, and further increase mortality rates.
So, REWE Group is using incubators using the innovative early feeding system in two hatcheries that are integrated into the supply chain of REWE Group’s private chicken label.
The system provides direct feeding and watering within the incubator. In two-storey breeding baskets – known as hordes – with a maximum of 90 eggs each, the newly hatched chicks automatically slide down to the lower level.
They have enough light, air and space to move freely without any disruptive eggshells and they have access to water and feed immediately after hatching. After opening the incubators, only the upper layer with the eggshells is removed. The lower level containing the chicks and their feed serves as a transport box for further transportation.
Early feeding and drinking water supply, optimal climate control and sufficient space and light prevent development disorders and give all chicks a more even and vital start to their lives. Mortality rates can therefore be significantly reduced.
Dr Ludger Breloh, head of REWE Group’s Strategy and Innovation (Agriculture), said: “Livestock farming according to the needs of the animals begins in the incubator.
“We are happy to implement the early feeding process, which is still little used in Germany, for the entire supply chain of REWE Group’s own-brand chicken.
“This will achieve significant improvements in animal welfare and animal health,” he added.