Family-owned Bell & Evans, based in Fredericksburg, PA, has broken ground on a new 560,000-square- foot processing plant in order to keep up with demand for organic poultry.  The new plant is slated to begin operations in early 2020 and is expected to triple production.

Once at full capacity, the new plant will process 2.6 million birds per week.  The company’s existing plant will continue operations, processing another 1 million birds weekly–all to support the company’s retail and foodservice business.  The increased volume will align with increased operations at its new organic certified and animal welfare-focused chicken hatchery that began operations in August 2017 as well as its packaging and further processing facility, which opened in 2015.

Bell & Evans is also expanding its broiler breeding and grow-out programs to support production growth.  Additional operations will include a wastewater treatment plant, composting building, and warehousing facility.  An estimated 1,800 additional full-time emploees will be needed at the new chicken plant.

Currently, approximately 30 percent of Bell & Evans production is organic and all chicken is raised without antibiotics and are 100 percent air-chilled.  Large retails customers include Wegmans, Whole Foods, and other upscale supermarkets.

In addition, Bell & Evans in 2018 will transition to a slower-growing breed of chickens, named the Klassenbester breed. The company placed the first female pullets in May 2017, and by 2018, all of Bell & Evans hickens will be fully converted to the Klassenbester.

U.S. demand for organic poultry is growing.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, organic chicken sales were up last year to $750 million.  This makes chicken the third-largest organic agriculture commodity, trailing organic milk and eggs.