Three years after opening its $40 million, organic certified, animal-welfare-focused chicken hatchery, Bell & Evans is now adding hatching capabilities to maximize capacity in preparation for the company’s upcoming growth.
Bell & Evans currently hatches 1.35 million chicks per week at its 160,000-square-foot hatchery, located in Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania. The addition of two HatchTech hatchers and 12 setters will allow Bell & Evans to hatch 1.9 million chicks per week within the same walls, a 40.7% increase.
Unique to all U.S. hatching operations, 100% of Bell & Evans chicks receive immediate access to organic-certified feed, fresh water and light at hatch. At traditional chicken hatcheries, chicks do not receive nourishment until they arrive to the farm, sometimes up to three days after hatch. The Bell & Evans Hatchery is also 100% formaldehyde free and has advanced candling and heartbeat detection equipment to make sure only viable eggs are placed in the hatchers, avoiding excessive bacteria exposure to newly hatched chicks from nonviable eggs.
“We have better practices because we consider what is best for our chickens, not what is most profitable for the business,” said Bell & Evans Owner Scott Sechler. “From our hatchery to live bird transportation, on-the-farm care and live bird receiving and handling at our processing facility, every step of our process continues to be examined so we can feel good about our humane animal welfare standards.”
Live bird transportation plays a key role in Bell & Evans’ Humane Animal Welfare Standards. The HatchTraveller, also from HatchTech, provides continuous early feeding and a smooth, climate-controlled ride to the farms. This is another key difference of the Bell & Evans process and unique to U.S. poultry operations, the company said.
Update on future chicken harvesting facilities
Last month, Bell & Evans announced it had started the construction of its new 411,500-square-foot chicken harvesting facility, also in Fredericksburg. With the new facility, Bell & Evans will have North America’s first automated transport system that eliminates the use of fork trucks to off-load modules of chickens from transportation into harvesting. The innovative design creates a smoother transition that minimizes stress on the birds, a priority for Bell & Evans.
The new Bell & Evans chicken harvesting facility sits on a 112-acre property located directly behind its hatchery. Bell & Evans already has permits to build a second new chicken harvesting plant of similar scale within the next 10 years and additional hatchery expansion plans to accommodate that future growth.
Bell & Evans produces 100% premium raised without antibiotics chicken and organic chicken, approximately 60% and 40% of its business, respectively.
The additional capacity will allow Bell & Evans to continue expanding its organic production to approximately 50% of total production to meet increasing customer demands. Bell & Evans products can be found nationally at premium health-food markets and upscale retailers as well as branded on the menus of the best restaurants in the country.
Bell & Evans, also known as Farmers Pride Inc., processed 4.1 million pounds of ready-to-cook chicken on a weekly basis in 2019.