WATT Poultry USA - February 2018 - 37
Bell & Evans will transition to a slower-growing
breed of broiler chicken by the end of 2018.
days. The new breed will take 47 to 50 days, 15 percent longer, to reach the average liveweight. In a press
release, the company said it plans on spending $14 million on additional feed per year due to the change.
Sechler said he doesn't expect prices will change with
the breed. Bell & Evans already gets higher prices than
anyone else in the country. Feed costs will increase, but he
thinks any losses will be made up if he's able to sell more
high-quality products. The company last raised prices
almost a decade ago and a price increase is not planned to
offset the higher costs associated with the new breed.
Photos courtesy of Bell & Evans
The grade A bird
are started and eggs are brought in from European breeders. By the end of January 2018, he expects the first of the
new breed will be processed and arriving on the market.
While he declined to discuss the specifics of where
the breed is coming from and which company is furnishing the genetics, he said it's a closer match to the
genetics of a decade prior. In some cases, the company
has secured 100 percent of the available breeding stock
to ensure a continuous supply going forward.
Bell & Evans' liveweight averages 5.6 pounds at 41
February 2018 ❙ www.WATTAgNet.com
Sechler said he still remembers the birds that were
around 15 years ago and he's trying to turn the clock
back to then in terms of genetics. While feed conversion improved since 2000, he said quality declined.
For years, he's worked with breeder companies to
get what he called a "grade A" chicken - a bird that
looks good before you cook it. Bell & Evans is a leading
provider of whole birds, not including rotisserie, at the
retail level. Sechler said whole chickens make up about
30 percent to 40 percent of his market. His consumers
prefer a whole bird for its greater culinary potential.
Sechler said he's not referring to "grade A" as meeting the U.S. Department of Agriculture's definition but
rather that it's the highest-quality product available.
The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
describes the Grade A packaging label as signifying
"the poultry products are virtually free from defects
such as bruises, discolorations, and feathers. Bone-in
products have no broken bones. For whole birds and
parts with the skin on, there are no tears in the skin or
exposed flesh that could dry out during cooking, and a
good covering of fat under the skin."
The FSIS notes that Grade A is the only grade
likely to be seen at retail level.
"I'll give up feed conversion, I'll give up the fastness of growing," Sechler said. "Everyone is worried
about efficiency in the chicken industry in America
and almost no one takes quality really seriously."
Furthermore, modern genetics are pushing the animal to the edge, he said, and this new breed will expe-