Scott Sechler – “Beyond anything I could ever dream of”

Building a greenfield plant allows Bell & Evans to do things right from beginning to end

Bell Evans New Plant

Founded in 1894 and located in Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania, Bell & Evans has a long history of excellence in the poultry processing industry. Since Scott Sechler purchased the company in the 1980s, Bell & Evans has become known as one of the most innovative operations in the business. America’s oldest branded chicken company was the first in the US to produce an all-natural Raised Without Antibiotics chicken and the first adopter of many high-tech processing solutions, from 100% air chilling to slow induction anesthesia, to high-end convenience packaging.

Always looking to challenge the status quo in pursuit of the highest quality product, Bell & Evans’ new greenfield facility in Fredericksburg, set to open later this year, is no exception. Owner Scott Sechler states, “Every machine purchased was meticulously selected to achieve superior quality, sustainability, efficiency, traceability, safety and humane handling of our chickens.”

3D version of the facility

While designing a new facility through a global pandemic isn’t ideal, it played a big role in how the engineering itself all took place. The Bell & Evans team along with the Marel engineering team and others were able to put together a 3D version of the facility so all aspects could be talked through, point by point. From wiring to drain placement to equipment design and layout, nothing was missed during the engineering phase which made the building phase much smoother. “To do all this stuff is incredible and beyond anything I could ever dream of,” says Scott Sechler.

Bell Evans Construction

Take a virtual tour of Bell & Evans' new plant

This plant is completely built from the standpoint of animal welfare to be the best ever. And the quality we produce to be the best ever.

Scott Sechler
Owner Bell & Evans

Humane anesthesia

This new plant is Sechler’s dream of how chicken processing should look. Automation is replacing the most labor intensive positions where it doesn’t make sense to have human labor. This ensures that Bell & Evans can pay the highest wages for the people they do have. A customized version of Controlled Atmosphere Stunning, also known as CAS slow induction anesthesia, is being utilized, a very important part of this new facility for Sechler. While this process is not new to Bell & Evans, it’s a newer technology to the US market. The chickens receive low levels of CO2 over a six to seven minute period before they are hung for processing. This system is the most humane system available on the market today.

Gentle truck offloading

Another new technology being incorporated is automatic offloading of the birds from the trucks. Without using forklifts, a conveyor belt system gently moves the module of birds from the trailer into the facility. This process takes about two minutes and eliminates jerking and startling the birds. Once inside, the modules are gently destacked using automated machinery and the chickens “go to sleep”, as Sechler states. “This plant is completely built from the standpoint of animal welfare to be the best ever. The human welfare to be the best ever. And the quality we produce to be the best ever.”

No shortcuts

During his years of travel, one of the things Sechler saw often in European processing was straight lines. Sechler mentions, “Adding bends creates problems, especially at higher speeds and going into a machine.” He wanted to ensure that this new facility had lots of room and space to accomplish the highest speeds for processing. And to still have room for upgrades and improvements down the road when necessary. Sechler mentions wings and how everyone wants them, but they get easily damaged. With this technology and straight lines he’s expecting “20% to 40% more grade A wings.”

Building a new plant, you get the opportunity to do it right from the beginning. Scott Sechler didn’t take any shortcuts with this greenfield facility. We are excited to see it open later this year!

[This article contains excerpts from MeatingPod EP22, the podcast of Meatingplace]

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