Customer story

Simply Essentials has a clear vision

17 Aug 2017

Marel Poultry’s first ever complete plant in the USA

Simply Essentials, USA

“When we started up our chicken division at the end of 2015 we had a clear vision. We wanted to offer US consumers a premium range of innovative and healthy chicken products produced to the highest standards of hygiene and animal welfare in a new factory equipped with the very latest processing technology”. With these words, John Pastrana, VP of Operations at Simply Essentials, a Kansas City based supplier of high quality protein meat and dairy products, sums his company’s aims.


Broilers are processed at the factory in Charles City, Iowa, commissioned at the end of 2016. The brand-new factory, laid out to process 8400 bph (140 bpm) of an average live weight of 2.95 kg (6.5 lb), is the first plant in the USA to be fitted out almost exclusively with Marel Poultry equipment.

In the words of Simply Essential’s CEO, Dennis Krause, the Charles City operation has been set up to offer unparalleled levels of technology, efficiency, sustainability, safety and animal welfare.


Simply Essentials, USA Scott Moore (Marel Poultry Territory Sales Manager) and John Pastrana (Simply Essentials, VP of Operations).

John Pastrana continues “After visits to reference plants in Europe and discussions with Marel Poultry specialists and management, we came to the conclusion that Marel Poultry was best placed to give us what we wanted. We were really impressed by the performance of the equipment we saw. We are really happy to be the first company in the USA to operate the GP live bird handling system, DownFlow "Plus" air chilling, the latest Stork automatic thigh filleting technology and the 'D strap' labeler.”


The new plant also features the second SmoothFlow controlled atmosphere stunning system to be installed in the USA, a complete scalding and picking line, Nuova automatic evisceration and giblet harvesting, two complete ACM-NT automatic cut up lines, SensorX residual bone detection systems and Marel Weigh Price Labelers.

Automatic rehangers transfer products from department to department, keeping the process fully in-line. A plant-wide Innova monitoring and control system oversees the entire production process, providing management with an invaluable management tool.


“Animal welfare is a priority for us at Simply Essentials. We were particularly impressed by the Stork GP transport module which is why we chose the Stork GP live bird handling system for our new plant. Being able to load birds through the top of the module is a big improvement on the side loading we are used to in the US. We are looking forward to a big reduction in product damage and particularly in damage to wings. Wings are a popular and profitable product for us.” 

John Pastrana also comments on the decision to install CAS SmoothFlow, “We fully recognize the welfare and end product quality benefits of controlled atmosphere stunning and wanted this to be part of our new process. What we liked about the Stork system was its simplicity. We are sure we have made the right choice.”


Efficient and hygienic evisceration and giblet harvesting was another focus area for Simply Essentials. John Pastrana continues, “We decided to automate giblet harvesting, as we were convinced that this would give us significantly better giblet yields as well as saving us labor and improving hygiene. I am happy to confirm that our Nuova system is living up to expectations.”


Simply Essentials, USA

As already mentioned, Simply Essentials is the first poultry processor in the USA to operate a Marel Poultry DownFlow "Plus" air chill system. The chill tunnel accommodates some two miles of overhead conveyor and is able to hold some 23,000 products. It is equipped with misting devices which apply a thin film of water at various stages during the chilling process. Misting stops carcasses from drying out, keeping weight loss to a minimum. It can also inhibit the growth of bacteria. John Pastrana continues “We want to be able to offer our customers something special. We are convinced that air chilled products look and taste better.

We want to lock in flavor, not water. Air chilling is also more hygienic and gives us a safer product. We are happy to promote the technology on our packaging.”


Simply Essentials is one of the first poultry processors anywhere in the world to install ACM-NT cut-up systems complete with the latest Stork automatic Thigh Fillet System. This gives retail quality deboned thigh meat at the very high throughputs handled by ACM-NT.

John Pastrana continues the story, “We saw the system twice at its launch installation in Germany and were amazed at its productivity. Yield and presentation looked truly excellent and the potential for saving labor is enormous. We are proud to be the first user of the new system in the US.”

Another Marel machine celebrating its US debut is the Marel M360 Labeler for the application of linerless wraparound labels. John Pastrana explains “At Simply Essentials we are keen to give our consumers full, accurate and honest information about the premium product they are buying. The M360 gives us the larger print area we need to do this.”


The Simply Essentials’ project went smoothly from start to finish. An additional challenge was that the workforce of some 250 people had no prior experience of processing poultry. John Pastrana is fulsome in his praise of the support he received from Marel Poultry, “I couldn’t have wished for a better bunch of people to work with and I really can’t thank them enough. A wonderful job and well done everyone!”

Marel Poultry is looking forward to working closely with Simply Essentials to ensure the success of its exciting new venture.

Unique in the USA

Simply Essentials is unique in the USA in that all its meat (beef and pork as well as chicken) comes from animals which have been fed a USDA approved flax seed based diet and is therefore lower in cholesterol and higher in Omega 3. The company’s simple motto is “if our animals eat better, so do you.” Simply Essentials is also one of only six chicken producers in the USA to market an air chilled fresh product. Most carcasses are cut into wing, thigh and drum portions and deboned into skinless thigh and breast fillets. All cut and deboned product is packed onto attractive lidded trays. Currently some 90% of production is sold retail through a wide range of outlets from supermarket chains to small local “Mom and Pop” stores.