Biogas or salami? An ethical analysis of two chains for end-of-lay hens

Stefan Mann (Department of Socioeconomics, Federal Research Station Agroscope, Frauenfeld, Switzerland)
Tatjana Visak (Universitat Mannheim Philosophie und Wirtschaftsethik, Mannheim, Germany)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Publication date: 10 June 2019



Since 2010, Swiss slaughterhouses have no longer accepted end-of-lay chickens, so egg producers have had to slaughter the animals on the farm and deliver them to biogas plants for gasification. However, the producers’ association, GalloCircle, has recently contracted a German slaughterhouse to process end-of-lay chickens into meat. As a consequence, an increasing number of these animals are now transported abroad. The purpose of this paper is to compare the two chains from a utilitarian perspective.


An interview with a central actor is analyzed by objective hermeneutics. In addition, a utilitarian comparison of the two chains is carried out.


The interview with a core stakeholder reveals that he considers this to be worse for both the animals and the farmers. The system change has been motivated by the (either merely perceived or actual) ethical preferences of consumers. The authors ethical evaluation of the system change shows, however, that highly controversial assumptions would need to be made in order to justify it. The authors doubt that the (alleged) consumer preferences are based on a proper ethical analysis of the two options.

Practical implications

The authors make a case for rationally reconsidering the choice of sending the chickens abroad.


The paper shows that utilitarian analysis is useful to consciously choose between different value chains.



Mann, S. and Visak, T. (2019), "Biogas or salami? An ethical analysis of two chains for end-of-lay hens", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 46 No. 6, pp. 838-848.

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