Bell & Evans’ new harvesting plant wins 2022 Food Plant of the Year award
August 1, 2022
FREDERICKSBURG, Pa., August 1, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — It didn’t take long for Bell & Evans, a premier poultry producer, to earn well-deserved recognition for its pioneering certified organic chicken harvesting facility in Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania. The plant started operating at the beginning december 2021 and was recently named the 2022 Food Plant of the Year by Food Engineering for its innovations, automations, and high scores in all categories, including team member wellness, animal welfare, food safety, product quality, and sustainability. .
The new facility processes 100% Bell & Evans chicken through harvest, 100% air-chilled, cut, deboned, cased and shipped. At 411,500 square feet, roughly the size of seven football fields, it was built in a linear fashion to minimize production turnover and maximize product quality. Many of their innovations are firsts in U.S. poultry. The facility also serves as the new headquarters for Bell & Evans with extensive office and meeting space including an executive conference room with a jumbotron video wall. for education and an adjoining kitchen to prepare The Excellent Chicken®.
“I have traveled the world and spent my entire career collecting ideas for this new plant,” said the owner of Bell & Evans. scott sechler. “Over the years, we have expanded and modernized our old plant to meet our needs, and we were ready to build this state-of-the-art facility using all the knowledge and experience we have. We spared no expense in achieving our goals, and we are very proud of this place.
Bell & Evans is a 5the generation family business that redefines what sustainability means, as the oldest branded chicken company in America and the most modern in the US and perhaps in the world. With a 100% state-of-the-art facility built in the last decade, the Bell & Evans definition of sustainability includes and expands beyond the protection of our air, soil, water, and natural resources. Continued and significant investments in land, facilities, equipment, processes, partnerships and your team pave the way for a long and prosperous future for Bell & Evans.
This was Bell & Evans’ third successful collaboration with design-build firm Stellar of Jacksonville, Fla.. Stellar completed the 2017 Bell & Evans hatchery and additional award-winning processing facility in 2015. All are certified organic and located in Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania. Bell & Evans has permits to build a second certified organic harvesting facility of similar scale on the same 112-acre campus as its newest plant.
Construction of the new harvesting plant began in March 2020 at the start of COVID-19. The entire facility was virtually designed using Building Information Modeling (BIM) software to allow Bell & Evans’ operations team and vendors to collaborate on the placement of every wall, cable, pipe, piece of equipment, nut and bolt to eliminate interference. That collaboration plus strong vendor partnerships, support from state and local governments, and continued involvement from the Bell & Evans team kept the project on schedule and resulted in an unprecedented start-up 21 months later.
The following are specific details within several key categories for Bell & Evans in its new facility.
Thoughtful Workspaces and Team Member Wellbeing
The production areas are light and airy, many with white-pigmented concrete walls, windows for natural light, and energy-efficient LED lights.
Adjustable stands at workstations and sports trainers in production provide ergonomic support.
Automations, conveyor systems, and online processing minimize the need for forklifts, heavy lifting, or high-traffic areas to improve worker safety. The facility has seven palletizing robots, four pick-and-place robots, and is currently testing a prototype automated guided vehicle (AGV) in its warehouse.
A full-service cafeteria offers hot, healthy meals daily at cost to team members, including soups, sandwiches, salads, daily grilled specials, prepared meals, fresh juices and free coffee.
Free on-site medical care is available at the facility’s care center.
Significant improvements in animal welfare
Bell & Evans is the first US poultry company to use a fully automated unloading system to bring broilers into the facility without forklifts or human handling. The innovative transport system slowly pulls the large broiler module from the trailer to the facility with little noise or movement.
The live animal receiving area is temperature controlled and has blue lighting that is not visible to chickens, so it appears dark. These measures to minimize light, sound and movement reduce stress for the birds.
The new, spacious trays provide more headroom and better ventilation than standard models for chickens that travel from farm to harvest facility an hour or less on average.
An improved Slow Induction Anesthesia (SIA) process combines oxygen with warm CO2 gas for a gentle, controlled process of putting chickens to sleep. The windows in SIA allow full transparency.
Upon arrival at harvest, the chickens are not handled by humans while conscious, which is also a benefit to team members.
Comprehensive food safety measures
Every effort was made to eliminate opportunities for bacteria in production. Hand and boot washing stations are at each entrance to the production, including the live reception. Most processing equipment is welded and suspended from stainless steel wall plates, minimizing nuts, bolts and leg columns that could otherwise create difficult-to-clean pinch points.
There are no painted, wooden or porous surfaces in production.
Specialized air dryer and filtration units minimize moisture in the air that could breed bacteria, and rooftop makeup air units use ultraviolet light technology to keep out bacteria and viruses.
The facility is certified organic and does not contain chlorine. Certified organic cleaning solutions are channeled to points in the facility and a monitoring system ensures safe delivery with no human or product contact.
Chicken by-products are automatically transported to a neighboring building for separation.
Superior product quality
Bell & Evans is the first US poultry company to incorporate vision grading three times during processing, even before evisceration, to detect internal and external defects. Defective birds are automatically removed from the line for human review.
Improved blanchers deliver heat through plates instead of steam to maintain a constant water temperature that is critical for complete feather removal.
Bell & Evans pioneered an innovative chicken singe to remove pin feathers and reduce common surface bacteria such as Salmonella.
An updated 100% Air Chill system quickly cold-seals the bird’s exterior to retain its natural juices, then slowly balances the bird’s overall temperature. Livers, gizzards, hearts and necks are also 100% air-cooled.
100% of the boneless product, both white and dark meat, is trimmed by hand and then X-rayed with bone detection equipment that was originally designed for the fishing industry to identify very small bones.
the $360 million The investment in the new Harvest Plant and wastewater treatment plant was funded by the US’s first Green Poultry Loan for commitments to sustainability.
The “European-Plus” facility is built to last with exceptional quality materials such as precast concrete walls for superior thermal rating and acid brick production floors for longevity, even with heavy sanitation.
41% of the site’s drinking water is reconditioned for use again in the first processing. Bell & Evans conserves 400,000 gallons of water per day and is 40% more water efficient than the rest of the poultry industry with its 100% Air Chill processing and water reuse.
55% of the new facility’s heat requirements (in BTUs) come from recycled waste heat from its own neighboring facility. 250 gallons of recycled water are heated per minute without additional fuel, greatly reducing daily carbon emissions.
The refrigerated interstitial space for utility access above production creates a thermo effect for energy savings in the refrigerated spaces below.
There are no steam boilers in the new facilities. Their direct fired gas heaters achieve 99% efficiency compared to the 89-90% efficiency of typical steam boilers.
100% stainless steel piping in the ammonia system ensures longevity and maximizes equipment safety.
Bell & Evans chicken is sold nationally at Whole Foods Market and at premium mom-and-pop retailers across the country, including Wegmans Food Markets, Roche Bros. Supermarkets, Central Market (HEB), Dierbergs, Lunds & Byerlys and more. Bell & Evans chicken is also on the menus of America’s best restaurants.
About Bell & Evans– Bell & Evans is a 5the generation family business and America’s oldest branded chicken company. We pioneered the all-natural, antibiotic-free chicken industry and maintain the highest standards of animal welfare in poultry. We produce 100% antibiotic-free raised chicken and certified organic chicken without commodity production.