Premium poultry producer Bell & Evans is celebrating its 20th anniversary of Raised Without Antibiotics (RWA) chicken. The family-owned chicken producer was the first in the U.S. to eliminate the routine use of antibiotics from 100% of its broiler business in August 1998. It received USDA approval of its RWA claim on October 2, 1998.

Bell & Evans’ RWA standard means that no antibiotics are administered throughout the broiler’s entire lifespan, including the egg. The National Organic Program only requires that poultry be under continuous organic management, including no antibiotics, from the second day of life. That loophole allows other chicken producers to administer antibiotics before the second day of life.

“I always believed that chickens could be raised without the crutch of antibiotics within the right conditions,” said Bell & Evans Owner Scott Sechler. “Low stress, quality feed and clean housing make all the difference to chickens’ health. Other producers use antibiotics as a cheap fix for lower-welfare practices, while we are pioneering the highest welfare practices in the industry.”

Bell & Evans has long been regarded as the pioneer of natural, premium chicken, innovating and leading the poultry industry with the highest set of welfare standards. Those standards allow the producer to successfully raise chickens without the use of antibiotics.

Bell & Evans chickens eat an all-vegetarian feed of US-grown corn and expeller-pressed soy, not hexane processed, plus a blend of oregano oil, cinnamon and yucca to support their natural gut health. No toxic chemicals or questionable grain imports are used in their feed, unlike commodity producers.

At the farms, every Bell & Evans chicken house has cement floors and curbs to prevent pests from entering, and each house is completely cleaned out, sanitized and left vacant between flocks to break the lifecycle of bacteria. Every new flock of chicks starts out on a fresh bed of litter. Other producers have dirt-floor houses and start chicks out on repurposed litter.

Most recently, in 2017, Bell & Evans opened the world’s first organic certified and animal-welfare-focused chicken Hatchery. There, chicks have access to quality certified-organic feed and fresh water from the moment they hatch. At traditional hatcheries, chicks do not receive food or water until they arrive to the farm, sometimes a two- to three-day wait. Also, Bell & Evans does not use shell separators, chick counters, conveyor belts or other traditional methods to move and sort chicks like at traditional hatcheries. Bell & Evans chicks are hardier when they arrive to farms than the stressed, hungry and nutrient-deprived chicks coming out of traditional hatcheries. The Hatchery is also 100% formaldehyde free and uses only organic-approved disinfectants. Other hatcheries use formaldehyde to disinfect their eggs and expose their chicks to other harmful cleaning solutions.

“We have led the industry in many firsts, from removing antibiotics to converting to 100% Air Chill, pioneering Slow Induction Anesthesia and opening a new Hatchery unlike any other in the world,” said Sechler. “2018 is a year of celebrations, beginning with our 20-year RWA celebration and moving to our complete transition to a higher-welfare breed of chicken, Das Klassenbester, yet another industry first!”