FREDERICKSBURG, PA. – Bell & Evans, a supplier of processed air-chilled chicken raised without antibiotics, announced an investment of $500 million to transition 50,000 acres of US corn and soybeans to certified organic production over the next five years. The Bell & Evans Organic Grain Initiative is a partnership with Cargill and Rodale Institute, a nonprofit specializing in research, farmer training and consumer education about organic products.
“We want to establish trust, transparency and loyalty with our grain farmers for the success and longevity of the program,” said Margo Sechler, Bell & Evans executive vice president. “The farmer wins from this partnership, as do Bell & Evans, Cargill, Rodale Institute and all Bell & Evans customers who pay a premium for our organic chicken and can trust they are getting true organic product.”
As part of the initiative, Bell & Evans finalized a long-term sourcing agreement with Cargill to exclusively secure organic grain and increase domestic organic grain supply. Cargill will incentivize US farmers to transition acreage from conventional to organic management. Rodale Institute will provide subsidized organic crop consulting services. Currently, only 1% of total US acreage is certified organic, the company said, yet the organic food market is a growing $50 billion industry.
"It has always been a part of Rodale Institute's mission to help farmers transition to organic production," said Sam Malriat, director of Rodale Institute’s Organic Crop Consultancy. “Our decades of research and on-the-ground experience have shown us that organic agriculture is a robust and profitable system that can improve soil health. With this initiative, we can expand our support network and ensure that every farmer has the resources they need to be successful.”
National organic food sales rose 4.6% in 2019 according to the Organic Trade Association. In 2020, Bell & Evans experienced 25% growth in organic chicken sales and projects growth of 27% in 2021 and 17% to 20% each year after that, through 2024, the company said.
“Cargill has a long history of providing growers with consistent access to new and emerging markets," said Jeff Vassart, managing director for Cargill’s agricultural supply chain in North America. “We’re proud to partner with Bell & Evans and Rodale Institute to offer an innovative sourcing solution that not only helps to support their projected growth, but also can remove the barriers for farmers in their transition to organic and access to specialty grain markets.”