U.S. poultry producer Bell & Evans and Marel, a leading global provider of advanced food processing equipment, systems and software, have reached an agreement to build a state-of-the-art processing facility in Fredericksburg, Pa. The new plant will boost sales of organic chicken products, the companies said.
Marel will fully equip the plant with two processing lines, each with a capacity of 140 birds per minute, prepared for 175 birds per minute.
“It is through partnerships with companies like Bell & Evans that we realize our vision of transforming the way food is processed,” Marel Poultry executive vice president Roger Claessens said. “Bell & Evans is known to add maximum value to the entire chain by maintaining the 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.”
Bell & Evans owner Scott Sechler said the company is the U.S. pioneer in organic chickens and boasts the world’s first organic-certified, animal welfare-focused chicken hatchery. In June 2019, Bell & Evans also fully transitioned to its new Das Klassenbester chicken, a higher-welfare, Grade A breed of broilers, which completely replaced the existing breed of chickens.
Additionally, Bell & Evans 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 also partnered with Marel to purchase its entire ATLAS automated transport system, which 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.
Instead of producing chlorinated water-chilled chicken or using a mix of water and air chilling, Bell & Evans uses 100% air chilling for 100% of its chicken production, which the company said a first in the industry.
From there, products are distributed and cut up in a Marel ACM-NT line, including a Q-Wing solution for wing part selection. There are also an automated in-line thigh and drumstick deboning systems, which is an upcoming trend in Europe. “In fact, we’re a European-minded company that’s located in the United States,” Sechler said.
The traceability process in the new Fredericksburg facility is also unique to the U.S. From the moment it enters the plant until packaging, each chicken can be traced back in the process as far as which flock and which farm it came from. Marel’s food processing software, Innova, includes the traceability program but will also connect all solutions throughout the plant, collect and analyze data and provide Bell & Evans plant staff the information needed to operate efficiently.
“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,” Sechler said.