where it all starts
IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE MANAGE EVERY STEP of our chicken production to ensure the health of our chickens and integrity of our products. The breeder operation is where it starts. A breeder farm is where male and female chickens produce hatching eggs that are transported to our organic certified, animal-welfare-focused Hatchery to hatch and grow into The Excellent Chicken
A HEALTHY CHICKEN MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Managing our breeder operations means we have control over the actual breed of chicken. “Das Klassenbester” is a practice of selecting breed based on welfare attributes and protein quality. Watch the Virtual Tour of one of our breeder operations to find out why our standards are higher.
WHY BREED MATTERS
Broiler chickens today are bred to grow fast, large and cheap. For decades, the big chicken companies have selectively bred for these traits to increase profit, and most primary breeds have been altered. That unnatural growth causes stress to the chickens’ bodies and health issues to develop, not to mention that quality suffers.
Our focus has always been on doing what’s right for our chickens and our customers. We pioneered the highest set of humane animal welfare standards in the industry and realized there was room for improvement in our breed. Learn more about our Das Klassenbester below.
Where it begins
We believe chickens need a healthy start. That’s why we built the world’s first Organic Certified Animal-Welfare-Focused Chicken Hatchery.
Our new hatchery marks a complete departure from traditional poultry practices. Most poultry producers inject eggs with antibiotics and sanitize with formaldehyde. We’ve replaced standard sanitization processes using harmful chemicals with stringent biosecurity procedures and organic sanitation methods.
Traditional poultry practices force chicks to wait until they’ve been transported to the farm to eat and drink—a process that can take up to three days. Our chicks enjoy organic food, water, fresh air and light as soon as they leave the egg.
They’re never handled by machinery. We’ve eliminated many standard industry practices, such as belt drops, shell separators and chick counters. This makes the process much less stressful for the chicks. And they’re transported from the hatchery to the chicken house within an hour’s drive, on average.
Home Sweet Home
within about an hour, chicks arrive from the hatchery. We transport them in the same trays in which they hatched, to minimize the stress of handling. During the short journey, they are provided with organic feed to nibble on. Watch our Broiler Farm Tour Video to follow along on their journey…
- Windows provide natural sunlight, which encourages activity and keeps chickens healthy.
- Cement floors and sidewalls prevent rodents and other pests from tunneling inside, making the chicken houses easier to clean and sanitize.
- Energy-efficient radiant heaters and evaporative cooling systems maintain comfortable temperatures year-round.
- Organic chicks are free to leave the barn, where outdoor pens protect them from predators.
Inside the chicken house, fresh new litter awaits the chicks. We remove old manure and fully sanitize the barn between each flock. The barns remain empty for more than two weeks. No other chicken company in the United States takes this step, but it’s crucial for breaking the lifecycle of bacteria and viruses.
We don’t “half-house brood.” Big poultry producers use “half-house brooding” to lower their heating costs, but it leads to overcrowding and injuries. We give our chickens full access to the entire chicken house, plus enrichments such as ramps and tunnels.
All that activity can make chickens hungry.
If you believe the phrase “you are what you eat,” then consider our chickens’ all-vegetarian blend of corn and expeller-pressed soy bean meal made by extruding and expelling the soybeans (not hexane processed), plus vitamins, minerals and plenty of fresh well-water.
Notice we didn’t say “antibiotics,” “petroleum and ethanol by-products,” “expired bakery goods” or “brewery grains.” Lots of poultry growers use these to cut costs. Not here. We take special care to feed our chickens only the best U.S. grown corn and soy, plus our own blend of oregano oil, cinnamon and yucca to support their natural gut health.
We’re the first in the U.S. to stop using antibiotics.
Discover how we did it.
En Route to Excellence
Our responsibility to our chickens doesn’t end when they leave our farms. They deserve comfort even when they’re on the road.
To make this possible, we’ve invested in a spacious modular drawer system with extended head room and increased air flow. No cramped wire cages here. Each drawer provides a clean, comfortable place for chickens to settle in and relax. A curtain system protects our birds from weather elements.
After a short drive– usually less than an hour– chickens arrive at our harvesting facility where the modules are unloaded gently by a conveyor system directly into the facility. No fork trucks required.
To keep them clean for the next flock, we use recycled water from our own waste water treatment plant to wash and disinfect our live trailers, modules and drawers between each use. This process minimizes movement and light for a calming experience for our birds.
Chilled to Perfection
If the word “processing” makes you squeamish, you’re not alone. We’ve worked hard to innovate better methods that benefit our chickens, our employees, our environment and you. Consumers who have an interest in where and how their food is made deserve to have access to that information. Transparency and trust are two of Bell & Evans’ core values!
We start with Slow Induction Anesthesia, or SIA. While still in the comfort of their drawers, chickens pass through chambers where both oxygen and CO2 are introduced in phases. As oxygen gradually decreases, CO2 gradually increases until the chickens are fully unconscious with no signs of awareness or sensitivity. That is important as a humane practice but also ensures proper bleed out through the harvest process.
Next, the chickens are 100% Air Chilled. Traditional chilling methods require chlorinated water, which is absorbed by the chicken and dilutes its natural juices. Our 100% Air Chilled method enhances the chicken’s flavor and tenderizes the meat, a big reason why Bell & Evans chicken tastes better than other any other. We introduced 100% Air Chill in 2005 and upgraded our system in 2021. (Learn more.)
Take a full virtual tour through our NEW ORGANIC-CERTIFIED CHICKEN HARVESTING FACILITY!
Our three points of vision grading beginning in evisceration through second processing is unique to our industry. Only the best 30% get packaged as whole birds, while the rest move into cut-up and deboning. All deboned product, both white and dark meat, passes through state-of-the-art x-ray equipment designed for the fish industry to detect very small bones. All of this extra care ensures we deliver the most superior chicken to our family-owned retailers, usually within 24 hours.
That's a Wrap
Have You Ever Noticed Bell & Evans packaging looks different than the rest? It’s not a marketing trick, aesthetic choice or cost benefit. These packages carry big benefits.
Other Packs: Family Pack
Our family pack is the same great product, just more of it. Great for parties and family dinners.
Other Packs: Whole Bagged Bird
Our whole birds are vacuum packed and sealed all the way around the bird. It keeps the bird’s natural juices inside and minimizes leaks, unlike most other clip and bag systems used today. Our Easy Open Feature means you simply split the tabs and pull. Whole bird perfection…ready to roast, rotisserie or grill.