US premium poultry producer Bell & Evans and Marel have concluded an important agreement to build a state-of-the-art processing facility. For Marel, the construction of the greenfield poultry plant in Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania is one of the largest transactions to date. It is remarkable that the two companies have very similar values which definitely tighten their partnership. They share the same vision for sustainability, animal well-being and food safety.
Selling its premium products mainly in the domestic retail market, Bell & Evans really makes a statement in the US food industry, stimulating the trend towards a more sustainable consumption. The new greenfield plant will certainly boost the sales of organic chicken products. Marel will fully equip two processing lines, each with a capacity of 140 bpm, prepared for 175 bpm.
“It is through partnerships with companies like Bell & Evans that we realize our vision of transforming the way food is processed,” says Roger Claessens, Executive Vice President of Marel Poultry. “Bell & Evans is known to add maximum value to the entire chain, by maintaining highest production quality from egg to end product. The company recognizes that only a strong partnership, covering the entire processing line can raise the quality of poultry processing to the same high level. We’re happy that Marel can contribute to this final link in their value chain.”
“At Bell & Evans, we believe that if you’re committed to do the right thing, you should commit 100%. We call it the 100% Rule,” says owner Scott Sechler. An important part of Bell & Evans’ 100% rule is that they’re fully committed to premium and organic chicken. Moving the bar higher than US regulations, Bell & Evans is the real US pioneer in organic chickens. It even has the world’s first organic-certified, animal welfare focused chicken hatchery. In June 2019, Bell & Evans fully transitioned to its new ‘Das Klassenbester’ chicken, a higher-welfare, grade A breed of broilers, which completely replaced the existing breed of chickens.
Chicken well-being is a priority in Bell & Evans’ 100% Rule. Like Marel, Bell & Evans focuses on animal well-being during transport from farm to harvesting plant. Its farms are located less than an hour’s drive, on average, from the processing facility and chickens are transported in state-of-the-art live bird transportation systems. Bell & Evans thrives to handle its chickens with the utmost care, so they partnered with Marel to purchase its entire ATLAS automated transport system. This system eliminates the use of forklifts and minimizes stress during unloading by reducing noise, light, sound and movement to offer a smooth transition from the trailer into its Slow Induction Anesthesia (SIA).
Bell & Evans first introduced SIA in 2011 and humane anesthesia was again high on the priorities for the new processing plant. It was, therefore, an easy decision for Bell & Evans to opt for multistage CAS SmoothFlow anesthetization.
Air chillingAnother key point of difference for Bell & Evans is 100% Air Chilling. Other US poultry processors produce chlorinated water chilled chicken or use a mix of water and air chilling. Since 2005, the company has utilized 100% Air Chill for 100% of its chicken production, a unique first in the industry. It’s the company’s way to transform US food processing and provide another level of quality to the consumer. It’s not surprising that Bell & Evans partners with Marel, for decades the authority in air chilling with a large technical patent portfolio.
After 100% Air Chill, products are distributed and cut-up in a Marel ACM-NT line, including a Q-Wing solution for wing part selection. Unique to the US are the automated in-line thigh and drumstick deboning systems, already an upcoming trend in Europe. “In fact, we’re a European-minded company that’s located in the United States,” says Sechler.
Traceability from farm to fork
Bell & Evans also commits 100% to traceability. The traceability process in the new Fredericksburg facility is unique to the US. Right from the moment of entering the processing plant until packaging, each chicken can be traced back in the process down to which flock and which farm it came from. Marel’s food processing software Innova not only ensures this traceability program but will also connect all solutions throughout the plant, collect and analyze data and offer Bell & Evans plant staff the information they need to run highly efficient operations.
“Marel is the only company in the world that has all the pieces figured out and in place together to offer a truly remarkable poultry processing system that I’m proud to use in our new harvesting plant,” says Sechler.