Corn Ethanol

Our government spent billions to subsidize and promote using millions of acres of precious American farmland to replace imported oil is unconscionable.

Now that corn is worth three times the past 20 year average at $9.00 per bushel and nearly half the U.S. crop is going to produce ethanol, we may have started a food inflation cycle that will grow out of control.

Can you believe that we slow down our oil imports and increase food imports!

We need to use American farm land for more than just fuel!

Out of desperation many animal production farms have resorted to using up to 20% ethanol by-products in their diets.  Ethanol by-products are dangerous- antibiotic and chemical laced loads of garbage! I would not feed any animal this kind of product ever.

Food vs. Fuel leadership has gone amuck!

We at Bell & Evans have not cut quality in anything we do and our plans are to continue to improve in all areas.  This year we added fully recyclable boxes to our program and just recently started our SIA system.  We now think that we have the humane slaughter method for poultry in the World.

The Perfectly Grilled Chicken

Every year around this time I have people tell me they barbequed their chicken and, even though they keep adding BBQ sauce,  the meat was dry. There is a very simple answer to this problem. PAR BOIL your chicken before putting it on the grill. It eliminates the problem of dry, charred meat outside and raw meat inside.

Just fill a pot with water, place the chicken pieces in the water and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the water, cover and set aside until you’re ready to grill.  This allows the meat to rest and retain its juices.  (Save the water you used to simmer the chicken for a stock base later.) The chicken will not be fully cooked, but it will require less time on the grill and less chance of drying out the meat.

When the grill is ready, place the pieces on the grill, until one side is golden brown, flip and brown the other side. At this point, if you choose, add your BBQ sauce and grill for several minutes until the sugar in the sauce starts to crackle and carmelize. Remove and serve. You and your family or guests will love the great taste of Bell & Evans grilled chicken!

Do you need to learn a foreign language to read the list of ingredients in your food?

Here are some simple words to live by: If you can’t pronounce it… don’t eat it.

Read food labels… especially the ingredient list. If it sounds like a chemical experiment, put it down. Also beware of some ‘all-natural’ products that say they contain “natural flavorings.” These so-called natural flavorings are added to foods that lose flavor in processing.

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The new bellandevans.com

Our new website launched this week and I invite you all to check it out. A lot has happened since our last web update, so there’s plenty to see.

Going Organic…
In case you didn’t know, we now offer a complete line of fresh organic chicken. This link on the home page will take you directly to the information on how our organic chickens are raised. There is also a link to all our organic products and a delicious Organic Chicken Fettucini Alfredo recipe.

From the farm…
This link takes you to information on The Bell & Evans Humane Animal Welfare Standard. For in-depth information about the care and feeding of our chickens, please visit “Humane Animal Welfare” under “Our Company”.

What’s New…
This is the place to go to find the latest information about Bell & Evans – new products, news items, demo events and my personal appearances.  This year we will be launching a new line of organic frozen products and you will hear about it here, first!  Today we’re featuring our new Fully Cooked, Pulled Chicken Barbeque. Look for it in your grocery stores in the near future.

Also on the home page, we’re highlighting five new recipes each season. There’s a main photograph of the dish, the Bell & Evans product you will need, and a link to the recipe card.  As you watch the home page, the recipes will rotate about every 10 seconds. Moms with finicky eaters will want to watch for the “Bell & Evans Nuggets with Cheesy Mac”. We’ve taken your kids two favorite meals and combine them into one crowd-pleaser!

And be sure to click on “Where to Buy” to find the stores closest to you that carry Bell & Evans.

What Our Chicks Eat

 

 

 

At the beginning of the new year, we all make resolutions to eat healthier. I thought it would be a good time to tell you about our chickens diet, because well-fed chickens are happy and less-stressed. The Bell & Evans Animal Welfare Standard guarantees our birds always have access to fresh water and our specially-blended feed.

The Bell & Evans Diet
Our birds thrive on our scientifically-formulated, all-vegetarian diet. The feed is Bell & Evans’ special blend of locally-grown corn and extruded and expeller-pressed soybeans, supplemented with three times the recommended vitamins, including A, D, E, K, B-12, niacin, riboflavin and thiamine. To bolster our young chick’s immune systems, they are fed a special starter diet, containing 15-times the recommended amounts of vitamin E, an antioxidant.

Each batch is electronically monitored to make sure it meets our formulation standards, plus our feed is routinely lab-checked to assure its nutrient value remains constant. We also take the extra step to pelletize the feed, because it makes it more digestible and less likely that contaminants can enter the food chain.

Unlike commodity-produced chickens, we never feed our birds junk food such as rendered meat scraps; bone, feather or fish meal; animal fats; expired bakery goods; used cooking oils or grease; or feed additives containing arsenic. That doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it? We don’t think so either.

You may ask…
Why are extruded soybeans and expeller-pressed soybeans so important?
Our special soybean processing method is environmentally friendly and produces soy meal that is richer in healthy nutrients such a lecithin, linoleic acid and vitamin E than the commonly used hexane solvent-extraction process. Nearly all soybeans in the United States are processed using the hexane solvent-extraction method. As part of this process, hexane gas is released into the air.

The Environmental Protection Agency categorizes hexane as a hazardous air pollutant. Residuals from the hexane potentially remain in the final meal. Though solvent extraction is more economical, we believe that raising a healthier chicken and protecting the environment far outweigh the costs.

Growing Organic
Our organically-grown chickens dine on an all-vegetable, organic diet made from grains grown in the United States. They get their energy from locally-grown extruded soybeans and expeller pressed soybeans, enhanced with corn and amino acids, that provide additional protein and fiber essential for growing the most tender and flavorful organic chicken. Did you know some poultry producers purchase cheap, questionably “organic” grains from China? For more information: http://www.cornucopia.org/2009/05/soy-report-and-scorecard/

Bell & Evans organic farms are certified organic by Pennsylvania Certified Organic, a USDA-accredited certifier.  PCO performs regular on site plant inspections, assuring you we continue to meet the USDA’s stringent requirements for organic certification.

And, of course, all Bell & Evans chickens receive no growth hormones or antibiotics, including Ionophores, in their feed, their water, or even the egg…ever.

In my next entry, I want to talk about how The Bell & Evans Humane Animal Welfare Standard impacts transporting our birds from the farm to the plant.

Raised without Antibiotics vs. antibiotic-free. Is there a difference?

On December 9th, the FDA announced (http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/NewsEvents/CVMUpdates/ucm236143.htm) that the U.S. meat, poultry and dairy producers used almost 29 million, yes million, pounds of antibiotics on their farm animals in 2009, up significantly from just a decade ago.  As you can imagine, public health organizations are troubled by these practices, especially ‘sub-therapeutic’ antibiotics — a low dose of antibiotics that is mixed into the feed of healthy farm animals to promote faster growth.  Many scientists are concerned these practices may be linked to the new antibiotic-resistant ’superbugs’, such as MRSA and E. coli, because the more we’re exposed to antibiotics the less effective they are when we need them.

So are we.

All Bell & Evans chickens are raised without antibiotics. Raised naturally in a low-stress environment, our Bell & Evans chickens start out healthier, so we have no need to pump our birds full of antibiotics throughout their lives. There are no antibiotics in their feed, their water, or even in the egg… ever.

Some producers say their chickens are antibiotic-free, but don’t be fooled.  It only means the chickens were antibiotic-free when they’re sold. All chickens must be antibiotic-free to be sold for human consumption.  It doesn’t mean they weren’t given antibiotics sometime in their life cycle. Some producers even try to get around the issue by injecting the egg before the chick hatches. Antibiotics are antibiotics no matter when they’re administered.

So to answer the question, yes, there is a big difference in chickens that are raised without antibiotics vs. those that are ‘antibiotic-free’. You can trust in Bell & Evans chicken, raised without antibiotics, to feed your family.

This is my last entry for the year. I wish you and your family all the best for the holidays and a healthy, happy new year. Please join me again in 2011 for more reflections on raising the excellent chicken

Life on the Farm.

Our peeps arrive at the farm within 24-hours of hatching from their eggs.  We place the chicks and their starter feed or ‘crumbles’ on kraft paper, right under their water-delivery system. This way the feed doesn’t get lost in the bedding and, within moments, the chicks relax and start to eat and drink. You may wonder how a chick knows how to drink, since there is no mother hen to show them. The water dispensers have little stainless steel balls at the bottom, where the water comes out, and the chicks peck at these shiny objects.

Once they’ve eaten, then the fun starts. Small groups of chicks run here and there, exploring their big, new world.  The farm families provide ‘toys’ to keep their birds active.  Would you believe our young chicks love to play in-and-around cardboard tubing? As they get older, the chicks peck at and climb on straw bales, ramps and perches. These activities encourage the chickens to jump and play…building healthy bodies and strong muscles.  Since our chickens remain active throughout their lives, they rarely suffer from breast blisters. This condition is caused when birds have not developed strong leg muscles and spend too much time resting on their breasts. Active, healthy chickens have much less stress.

Because we provide a low-stress environment, our chickens remain calm and non-aggressive. They’re not stuffed into an overcrowded house, they always have plenty of feed and fresh water, and we never put them through the pain or stress of being de-beaked or de-spurred.

On our organic farms, the chickens are free to go outside, scratch in the dirt, look for bugs in the grass, enjoy the sunshine when it’s warm…. or take shelter inside the house when the weather’s bad.  Our outdoor pens are enclosed so no predators can attack the chickens and our farm families always make sure the chicks are safe and secure in the house at night.

Look for my next entry, when I explain what we feed our chicks…and why.

Preparing the chicks arrival at the farm.

Unlike the conditions you may have seen depicted in Food Inc., our chicken houses are state-of-the-art and very clean.  We build our houses with cement floors that have a raised lip on the sides.  It makes it easier to clean and guarantees rodents cannot tunnel under the floor and up into the house.  Rodents are the major cause of salmonella and campylobacter, and their presence is very stressful to chickens.   

After each flock of chickens, we remove all manure and litter then thoroughly clean and disinfect the house. The house remains empty for approximately two weeks to make sure any virus life cycle has been broken, to protect the next flock. Then a new bed of clean, wood shavings is laid down…unlike other poultry producers who just add new litter on top of old manure.

Before the chicks arrive at the farm, the temperature in the house is raised to 90-92°.  Chickens are very sensitive to temperature. If it’s too hot, they get stressed. If it’s too cold, they get stressed. Our houses have cutting-edge electronic systems that monitor all conditions in the house, to provide year-round climate control and to insure optimal temperature and air quality in the house.

Fresh litter and constant fresh air circulation keep dust and ammonia in the house to a minimum. If you saw Food Inc., you’ll remember the people in the houses were having difficulty breathing, so much ammonia had built up in the house. We never have that problem, because we don’t leave that old manure in the house. Also our chickens don’t suffer from hock burns.  These marks are where the ammonia from the waste of other birds has burned through the skin on the bird’s leg. It’s painful and totally unnecessary.

We have a new video coming out at the end of the year. It will be available for you to see on our new website. When you watch it, you’ll see for yourself the steps we take to make sure our chicks are healthy and happy.

In my next entry, I want  to talk about the chickens’ life at the farm.

A Lifecycle of Humane Animal Compassion

In my last blog, I talked about the October 21, 2010 New York Times article, New Way to Help Chickens Cross to Other Side, by William Neuman. I talked about how our new slow induction anesthesia (SIA) will be a more humane, low-stress system that gently puts the birds to sleep before they are processed.

But the story doesn’t end there.  

SIA is the final step in years of work to create a lifecycle of humane animal compassion for our birds.  

Over the years, we’ve developed The Bell & Evans Humane Animal Welfare Standard, our guidelines that govern all aspects of our chickens’ lives and insure they receive the highest standards of humane animal treatment… for their entire life, not just during processing…from the breeder and the farm, to transport and the processing plant. Over the next few weeks I will discuss how our birds are cared for in each phase of their life. Today I want to start at the beginning and talk about our breeder farms.

We carefully select our breeder chickens and raises them from chicks, so they’re sure they grow up strong and healthy. Fresh air, fresh water and our specially-formulated, all-vegetarian diet help assure the flock will remain healthy.  Our breeders have spacious, well-ventilated houses that protect the chickens from the elements and predators, but still give them plenty of room to roam.  We carefully control their environment. Too hot or too cold and chickens get stressed. Fans, heaters and side walls that open, allow fresh air to circulate in warm weather and keep the house at a comfortable temperature year round.  We give the chickens special areas for socializing and the individual nests, with walls on three sides, give the hen a sense of security, while she’s laying her egg.  We don’t artificially inseminate our chickens, they mate naturally. If you saw Food Inc., you saw how stressful it was for those birds. As with all Bell & Evans facilities, our farm families dedicate their lives to the health and welfare of our chickens. They enforce strict B&E Standards in care, feeding and bio-security to protect our flocks.

In my next blog, I’ll discuss how we care for our chicks on the farm.

We’re setting the new standard for farm animal welfare

Even if you don’t read The New York Times, by now you’ve probably heard that we are again moving ‘ahead of the curve’… this time in farm animal welfare, by revolutionizing the way we begin to process our birds.

I was interviewed by The New York Times for their Oct. 22 front page article, New Way to Help Chickens Cross to Other Side, that focused on our new slow induction anesthesia system, which uses a CO2 gas to gently put the birds to sleep before they are processed.

To really understand why our new process is so important, you have to know a little about how live chickens are processed. The chickens are brought to a dimly lit area where workers pick them up by their legs and hang them upside down. A conveyor carries the birds to a unit that uses a mild electric shock to make them unconscious, and then to a machine that kills them.

Our new system is a gentle, stress-free, and much more humane way to process chickens. It works on the birds in the same way anesthesia works on a person before going into surgery. There’s no stress or panicked wing flapping that can injure the birds or our workers.

I’ve been researching the best way to do this and for the past 15 years. I’ve toured many European processing plants and analyzed their controlled-atmosphere stunning systems. I believe the custom-built system we’ve developed is much better. Their systems are designed to kill the birds, not put them to sleep. They can cut-off the birds of oxygen too quickly, which may cause them to suffer.

Earlier this year, Monica and I spent my birthday in Colorado and met with Temple Grandin. As a leading authority in livestock handling facilities, I wanted to get her input before we started construction. After showing her videos of the process and discussing our plans, she agreed, “This will be a big step forward for chicken welfare.”

For the last year, we have worked closely with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) on this project. Although they would like everyone to be vegan, even they recognize it’s not going to happen. However, they share our compassion for farm animal welfare, and PETA applauds our efforts to raise our chickens with the best quality of life.

In my next entry, I’ll talk more about how this $3 million upgrade to our process will result in higher quality meat for your dinner table.