A couple weeks ago, we took a trip out to the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country to visit the owner of Bell & Evans, Scott Sechler, and the rest of his team who supply the chicken for all of our restaurants. Owner Dan Simons and our Farmers Restaurant Group team – including Vicki Griffith, Ken Fletcher, and Meaghan O’Shea – got a behind the scenes tour of how Bell & Evans raise and process their chicken.
Part of the reason for our trip was to understand why Bell & Evans chicken tastes so much better than most of the chicken we have tried. As a farmer-owned company, we like to connect with the family farmers that supply the food to our restaurants. It is important for us to know where our food comes from.
Bell & Evans is no ordinary chicken farm. Just like us, everything matters to them. Four generations of family-run natural chicken farming is evident in everything they do. They insist on humane treatment, cleanliness, and food safety by investing in newly developed high-tech hatcheries and providing open, naturally lit chicken coops. They’re committed to feeding their chickens “no junk,” which means they are given no animal by-products, no additives containing arsenic, no petroleum or ethanol by-products, no used cooking oil by-products, and no antibiotics. Yes, this scary list is what most chickens eat. At Bell & Evans they are given an all-vegetarian diet of U.S. grown corn, extruded and expeller pressed soybeans, vitamins and minerals, and plenty of fresh well water.
Not only does this make for healthier and tastier chickens, the way they run their farm is much better for the environment. For example, their advertised “air chilled” process also says no to the use of chlorine ice baths most chicken farmers use, avoiding nasty chemicals and saving millions of gallons of water each year. This means they can use recyclable and reusable shipping containers because their chickens aren’t soaking wet when they are packaged.
Bell & Evans also cares what happens to their chicken once it leaves the farm. They carefully select their buyers, selling to companies who are like-minded and as they say “like-missioned,” to ensure their product is handled carefully all the way to the consumer, whether in a restaurant or from retail stores.
Of course, all of this work, and more, had us almost doing the chicken dance. We stayed hours past our allotted tour time talking and learning. We knew Bell & Evans was good chicken, but now we know why.
Curious? We invite you to come on down to any of our restaurants and get a taste (or two or three) for yourself. Celebrate National Fried Chicken Day (yes, this is a thing… and yes, it’s today!) with our famous Founding Farmers Chicken & Waffles or our awesome garlic black pepper chicken wings; or visit Farmers Fishers Bakers on the Georgetown riverfront for a cold glass of one of our 24 beers on tap with our Seafood Jambalaya.
The possibilities seem endless, and we’re certain you will agree what a difference Bell & Evans chicken makes. If possible, we always recommend making a reservation.
*Update, October 2018: We are now sourcing our chicken from suppliers other than Bell & Evans. We remain impressed by Bell & Evans’ standards and commitments, as they align with our own. While we do occasionally change suppliers for a variety of reasons, we remain committed to our Farmed in America by Family Farmers philosophy, and continuing to ensure that our farmers, growers, ranchers, and fishers align with our standard.