From the onset of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Bell & Evans has followed, exceeded and adapted to all recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a timely manner to reduce the spread of the virus for the protection of our team members. Our first priority has been taking extra precautions at our facilities and educating team members about personal measures they should take while at and outside of work to protect themselves and others.
Our second priority has been continuing to operate as a life-sustaining food producer to maintain the security of the food supply. We are equipped to continue safely operating due to our SQF certification (safe, quality food) and our standard good manufacturing practices (GMPs) that exceeded the initial recommendations from the CDC and have continued to evolve with new recommendations.
Like all essential businesses, Bell & Evans has faced very tough decisions during this time. While the company has tried to stay focused on its efforts, it is unfortunate that we now have to address misinformation. Below are responses to false claims and questions the company has received.
Claim: Bell & Evans has not shared its COVID-19 protection efforts.
Bell & Evans first communicated COVID-19 information with team members on March 11 and has provided weekly, sometimes daily, updates since that time. Bell & Evans advised team members in the first communications and continuously thereafter to not report to work if they feel ill and to see a health care provider, which is our standard team member policy. Team members were educated about recommended personal hygiene and social distancing measures. Bell & Evans shared its developing measures regarding deep cleaning of the facilities, social distancing efforts, and PPE required. To date, the company has shared more than 20 virus-related communications with team members.
Externally, Bell & Evans has communicated its COVID-19 efforts on the company website on March 23 with updates on April 15 and again on April 27.
Claim: Bell & Evans has not done enough to protect employees.
Bell & Evans has continued to adjust and implement the changing CDC recommendations, and with every update, we have been transparent through continuous team member updates. Team members have been provided with and required to wear face masks while on company property and those working in close proximity positions have been given face shields. Bell & Evans has installed permanent dividers between team members where social distancing guidelines are not practical. Our on-site medical provider is conducting symptom and temperature screening of all personnel entering our production facilities. From the onset of COVID-19, we communicated the symptoms of the virus and advised team members experiencing any symptoms to self-quarantine and be tested before returning to work. We have prohibited visitors, suspended inter-facility travel, implemented work-from-home status for non-essential personnel and required mandatory completion of COVID-19 training for all management, among other measures outlined on our website.
Claim: Bell & Evans is not paying sick leave to those affected by COVID-19.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Bell & Evans has waived all costs for team members to be tested for COVID-19 and has waived any co-pays or deductibles for team members who needed to be hospitalized. Team members who test positive for COVID-19 are paid retroactively to the date they first isolated while awaiting test results and continued to be paid for 14 days or until cleared by a medical professional to return to work. Once cleared by a medical professional to return to work, attendance is expected, and the normal attendance policy is followed.
Claim: Bell & Evans has not shared information about confirmed cases of COVID-19 at its facilities
Like most, if not all, essential businesses continuously operating during the COVID-19 outbreak, Bell & Evans has seen positive cases at its facilities. In every occurrence, Bell & Evans notified team members who worked in close proximity to the infected person per CDC guidance. Out of respect and privacy for our team members, we have not and will not share specifics about personal medical information.
Bell & Evans extends its deepest condolences to all the victims of this horrid virus and their families.
Claim: Bell & Evans should have shut down its facilities to do a deep clean
Normal operations at Bell & Evans’ processing facilities include a daily sanitation shift in which all processing equipment and the full production area are deep cleaned. From the onset of COVID-19, these efforts have been expanded to include thorough cleaning and fogging of all non-production common areas like restrooms, locker areas, cafeterias, meeting rooms and hallways. There is no added benefit of stopping production for an extended period of time when consistent deep cleaning already occurs.
As a food producer, we believe it is our duty to continue operating as an essential business, while upholding all appropriate safety precautions, during this pandemic when food security is a real concern for many Americans. In our industry, even a short pause in production can have severe effects to the food supply chain including bird loss and food shortages in grocery stores.
Has Bell & Evans done anything for its essential workers during the pandemic?
We feel very fortunate to be able to continue employing and providing a stable income with great benefits to our team members. Bell & Evans has been providing free product to all team members on a weekly basis since March 26 to ensure their personal food security. Bell & Evans began offering free daily boxed lunches to all essential team members on April 17 to minimize cafeteria traffic and make sure our team members get a nutritious lunch every day. Additionally, we have been uplifting spirits through a Food Supply Hero campaign throughout our facilities.
Has Bell & Evans had to depopulate chickens?
No, Bell & Evans has not had to depopulate chickens. Like other essential businesses, Bell & Evans has experienced employee attendance shortages due to cautions regarding the virus. To compensate for gaps in production teams, Bell & Evans contacted our growers and other community members asking for their help. We have provided temporary employment to several in this group within production to help us keep up with demand. We feel extremely grateful to our community for their support, and we’re very fortunate that our farmers have not had to euthanize chickens during this time.
How has Bell & Evans adjusted production to meet retail demand?
Bell & Evans is unique in that 90% of our total production is in retail, case-ready, packaging, so our adjustments have been minimal.
Are Bell & Evans products safe to purchase?
Per the U.S. Food & Drug Administration website, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a virus thought to be spread mainly from person-to-person. For more information on food safety and coronavirus, visit https://www.fda.gov/food/food-safety-during-emergencies/food-safety-and-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19.
For more information on Coronavirus (COVID-19), visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.