Bell & Evans recently broke ground on a 560,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, European-plus chicken harvesting plant in Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania.

This will be the first new build of a chicken harvesting facility in the northeast United States in more than 40 years. The operations at this facility will mimic those at the existing harvesting facility, with humane animal welfare as the primary focus. The new plant is slated to begin operations in early 2020.

At full capacity, the new plant will process 2.6 million birds per week. Bell & Evans’ existing chicken harvesting plant will continue operations, processing another 1 million birds weekly. The increased harvesting volume will align with increased operations at its new organic certified and animal welfare focused chicken hatchery that began operations in August 2017 and its packaging and further processing facility, which opened in 2015. Bell & Evans is also expanding its broiler breeding and grow-out programs to support production growth.

The new plant will primarily support Bell & Evans’ retail and food service sectors and will enable the family owned business to expand its organic line of products. Currently, about 30 percent of Bell & Evans’ production is organic, and every chicken is raised without antibiotics (RWA) and 100 percent air chilled. These standards, along with the company’s commitment to humane animal welfare practices like slow induction anesthesia, set the chicken producer apart from commodity producers. Large retail customers include family-owned Wegmans of Rochester, New York, and Whole Foods Market Inc. of Austin, Texas, as well as many other upscale supermarkets and butcher shops.

The new chicken harvesting plant will be one of several new facilities built at the 112-acre, multi-building complex in Fredericksburg. Additional operations will include a wastewater treatment plant, rendering plant, composting building and warehousing facility. This site is located within the same two-mile radius as all of Bell & Evans’ other operations. The land was purchased in 2014 in anticipation of this build.

The new European-plus processing plant will be designed and constructed by the engineering firm Stellar and will have many of the same unique design features as Bell & Evans recent builds by Stellar.

An estimated 1,800 additional full-time employees will be needed at the new chicken harvesting plant, creating job opportunities for people in central Pennsylvania.  

Transition to slower-growing breed

Simultaneously, in 2018, Bell & Evans will fully transition to a higher-welfare, slower-growing, more flavorful breed of chickens. The Klassenbester breed will net higher quality products without the white striping and tough, woody breasts.

Bell & Evans is the first U.S. chicken producer to fully commit to converting to a higher-welfare, slower-growing, more flavorful breed of chickens and will be fully transitioned by the end of 2018.

“This is a very exciting time for us,” said Bell & Evans Owner Scott Sechler. “We’re investing a lot of time and money on innovative equipment, processes and facilities to grow our business and fulfill our commitments to raising chickens humanely and providing healthier, more flavorful poultry to our customers. I’m excited that we can do all of this while continuing to support our local community through our growth and job creation.”