The Bell & Evans poultry processing plant in Fredericksburg, PA, was honored asFood Engineering's

The 2005 Food Plant of the Year award winners from Bell & Evans (B&E) and its project partners were honored by Food Engineering. Left to right: John Shahan, AWB Engineers; Sid Adkins, Suitt Construction; Bill Gruber, B&E; Scott Sechler, B&E; John Arnold, Suitt; and Frank Holly, Suitt.
Food Engineering's2005 plant of the year at the publication's annual Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo held in Clearwater Beach, FL in April.

Respect for the integrity of the process-how livestock is handled, how workers are treated, which plant practices are deployed-is part of the company's operating ethic. The latter two principals were key considerations when the 66-year-old firm planned a $26 million plant expansion and upgrade project.

"Best practices, not faddish trends, drive plant innovation at this Pennsylvania poultry processor," said Joyce Fassl, Food Engineering's editor in chief, as she presented the award to Scott Sechler, CEO and owner of Bell & Evans.

Production yield took a backseat to product improvement as Bell & Evans implemented changes to raise value to a higher level. The centerpiece of the project is a multi-phase air-chill system to replace conventional immersion chilling. Sechler began planning this project two decades ago. He visited operations with air-chill systems throughout Europe, learning the technology's potential and limitations and how it could be improved.

Sechler's latest project is to eliminate the use of chlorine, an initiative that requires altering staff mindsets that view chemical sanitation as a requirement. Ozonated water and steam cleaning are among the alternative tools being deployed.