“I traveled the world and spent my entire career collecting ideas for this new plant,” said Bell & Evans Owner Scott Sechler.
After starting operations December 2021, Bell & Evans’ organic-certified chicken harvesting facility in Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania has been named the 2022 Food Plant of the Year by Food Engineering. The 411,500-square-foot facility handles cut up, deboning, case packing and shipping and is also the company's new headquarters.
“Over the years, we expanded and retrofitted our old plant to meet our needs, and we were ready to build this state-of-the-world facility using every bit of knowledge and experience we have,” Sechler said. “We spared no expense to achieve our goals, and we’re really proud of this place.”
The Bell & Evans facility not only won the award due to its operational efficiency but due to its commitment to employee and animal welfare as well. For example, employees are provided ergonomic support via adjustable stands at workstations and access to athletic trainers. Automated conveyor and in-line processing systems also reduce the need for employees to drive forklifts and do heavy lifting – increasing worker safety.
The facility also uses larger transportation trays that allow birds more room and better ventilation.
As the U.S.’s oldest branded chicken company, Bell & Evans has a lot of firsts. It was the first company in the U.S. to use an automated bird unloading system that did not require human handling and was the first to integrate vision grading three times during processing. It was also the first poultry company to raise poultry without antibiotics from hatch to harvest and, according to its website, has not used any antibiotics in a decade.
Bell & Evans has already received the permits required to build a second organic-certified harvesting facility on the property.