Stellar's latest design-build project for Bell & Evans is an innovative and modern poultry plant unlike any other in the industry—so impressive, in fact, that Food Engineering recently named it the 2022 Food Plant of the Year. The $360 million organic-certified chicken harvesting facility features cutting-edge automation technology, high-end European design finishes, numerous sustainability considerations and a process that prioritizes animal welfare.

The award-winning 411,500-square-foot plant is located in Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania, just one mile from Bell & Evans’ world-first organic-certified, animal-welfare-focused chicken hatchery and award-winning packaging, storage, and processing facility, both designed and constructed by Stellar. The new chicken harvesting facility is the largest project Stellar has completed for Bell & Evans to date.

Stellar's multimillion-dollar project scope included architectural design, construction, process utilities, refrigeration, and thermal services. The firm also constructed a nearby offal building to support process operations. Before the plant's construction could begin in earnest, a significant amount of master planning and earthwork was conducted to prepare the 112-acre site.

"This project required an immense level of coordination and communication between our teams, subcontractors, equipment manufacturers and client representatives," said Stellar project manager Nathan Edwards. "Not only did the pandemic force a transition to new job site requirements and remote work, but we also designed this facility completely in 3D, including equipment placement. Effectively managing this degree of real-time coordination was key to the project's success."

Construction began in March 2020, and despite the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the design teams and other crews transitioned seamlessly without schedule sacrifices.

“It was our goal to never use the pandemic as an excuse for schedule delays as we worked to bring Scott Sechler’s vision for the next stage of the business to life. Stellar matched our commitment to accomplish this project, despite the obstacles that emerged amid the pandemic,” said Mike Bracrella, chief operating officer, Bell & Evans. “The Stellar team adapted, overcame and kept the project moving forward."
World-class animal welfare, sustainability, and automation technology

The plant's live receiving area employs a unique and humane process rarely found in a poultry facility. An automated transport system eliminates the use of fork trucks to offload chickens from trailers into harvesting. By reducing noise, light, and movement, this process minimizes stress on the chickens, a key priority for Bell & Evans. Chickens are humanely rendered unconscious by an upgraded Slow Induction Anesthesia (SIA) process using oxygen and tempered CO2 gas prior to harvest.

In addition, the facility features:

  • Innovative automation and robotics technology, including a smart vision system, a packaging area with robotic palletizing, and dock equipment configured to operate with a fleet of automated guided vehicles (AGVs).
  • Sustainable elements that recycle 41% of daily water use, utilize waste heat, and reduce the plant's carbon emissions by more than half
  • High-end materials and finishes, such as vertical-fiber acid brick flooring and European Bolidt flooring, which can better withstand high-pressure washdowns and temperature changes.
  • Unique employee welfare spaces, including a full-scale commercial kitchen and serving area that offers meals for employees, swapping out traditional cafeteria options with made-to-order foods, omelet stations, and more.

Prepared for future demand growth

The site layout is designed with future growth in mind. Stellar prepared the space adjacent to the structure to accommodate the construction of a duplicate building, should it be needed in the future.

"This is the most state-of-the-art, ‘European-Plus’ chicken harvesting facility in the world," said Bell & Evans Owner Scott Sechler. "Like our company, it's built to last and designed to grow. We're excited to continue surpassing our customers’ expectations with improvements made possible by this new plant."

Source: Stellar