This has been an exciting time for Bell & Evans! On Saturday, August 26, the first chicks began to hatch at our brand new hatchery. Those chicks were delivered to our farms on Monday, August 28, the same day that our Hatchery received its “organic certification” from Pennsylvania Certified Organic, a nonprofit certification agency accredited by the USDA for compliance with the National Organic Program (NOP).
What does this mean? Our facility and methods meet (and even exceed) NOP standards for organic certification – a certification process that took roughly six months to complete and included a thorough inspection and approval process by a qualified organic inspector.
The organic label represents many components of our chicken welfare program. Our chickens’ feed is American-grown organic grain with added organic herbs and extracts like oregano oil, which has natural antibacterial characteristics, to help protect against illnesses. Our flocks are raised 100% free from antibiotics – from the egg throughout the entire lifespan. And unlike most other chicken hatcheries, ours is 100% formaldehyde free. We clean and disinfect the Hatchery and incoming eggs ONLY with organic disinfectants.
But if the label says “organic,” was the chicken raised humanely? People assume so, but that’s not always the case. We designed our Hatchery with the highest level of animal welfare in mind because “low stress” is one of OUR organic standards. Our chicks have immediate access to water and organic feed after they hatch, unlike traditional practices where chicks go hungry for days waiting to be fed. Our chicks are never handled by machinery. We don’t use shell separators, chick counters, conveyor belts or other traditional methods of moving and sorting chicks. And our farms are local – on average, within an hour’s drive – so the chicks enjoy a short commute to the farm in climate-controlled trucks with feed and light, and in the same baskets as which they were hatched. The entire Hatchery experience is stress-free, and then the chicks move to the farms, where fresh new litter awaits them and their journey continues. Our humane animal welfare standards are upheld throughout the chickens’ entire lifespan.
We put an extensive amount of time, research and money into our commitment to raising organic chickens humanely. We traveled the world to study other practices and discovered answers in the Netherlands, which led us to hire Dutch companies HatchTech and Viscon Group to complete the $40 million, 160,000-square-foot Hatchery project. Most poultry producers do what’s best for the bottom line, but we do what’s best for our chickens.