Bell & Evans to ramp up organic chicken production

by Erica Shaffer
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Bell & Evans recently broke ground on a new 560,000 sq. ft. poultry processing plant in Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania.
The company will break ground on new harvesting plant in Pennsylvania. 
 
FREDERICKSBURG, Pa. – Major developments are under way at Bell & Evans with plans for a new poultry processing plant and a new breed of chicken.

Bell & Evans recently broke ground on a 560,000-sq.-ft. European-plus chicken harvesting plant in Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania, that is scheduled to open in early 2020. The plant will process 2.6 million birds per week at full production capacity, and primarily will support the company’s retail and foodservice business. The new plant also will expand production of the company’s organic line of poultry products. The company’s largest customers include Wegmans, Whole Foods and other supermarkets and butcher shops.

Currently, 30 percent of Bell & Evans’ production is organic, and in 2018 the company plans to transition to the Klassenbester breed of chicken that the company says is a higher welfare, slower growing breed of chicken. The company expects the Klassenbester to net higher quality products without white striping and woody breasts.

Bell & Evans plans to transition to Das Klassenbester chickens, which the company says are higher-welfare, slower-growing and more flavorful.
 
“We expect to invest more than $75 million in the new breed during the first five years, an investment I can’t see commodity producers making,” Scott Sechler, Bell & Evans owner, said in a statement. “We don’t raise commodity chickens. Every single chicken we process passes through our organic-certified Hatchery, never receives an antibiotic — even while in the egg — and have the same genetics, taking away all guesswork for our customers. We’re pretty proud to say that 100 percent of our products will come from a higher-welfare, better-quality breed.”

The company placed the first female pullets in May 2017. By the end of 2018, all of Bell & Evans’ chickens will be fully converted to the Klassenbester.

“This is a very exciting time for us,” Sechler said. “We’re investing a lot of time and money on innovative equipment, processes and facilities to grow our business and fulfill our commitments to raising chickens humanely and providing healthier, more flavorful poultry to our customers. I’m excited that we can do all of this while continuing to support our local community through our growth and job creation.”

The company expects to create 1,800 addition jobs at the new plant, which will be one of several new facilities at the 112-acre complex in Fredericksburg. The multi-building complex will include a wastewater treatment plant, rendering plant, composting and warehousing facilities.

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