Family-owned poultry producer Bell & Evans has partnered with Cargill and the Rodale Institute to transition 50,000 acres of U.S. corn and soybeans to certified organic production over the next five years.
“We want to establish trust, transparency and loyalty with our grain farmers for the success and longevity of the program,” said Bell & Evans Executive Vice President Margo Sechler. “The farmer wins from this partnership, as do Bell & Evans, Cargill, Rodale Institute and all Bell & Evans customers who pay a premium for our organic chicken and can trust they are getting true organic product.”
Bell & Evans will spend $500 million on certified organic U.S. grain for its certified organic chicken feed over the next five years as part of this initiative.
How it works
Under the Bell & Evans Organic Grain Initiative, Cargill will supply Bell & Evans with the organic grain for its domestic organic poultry production. U.S. farmers will receive incentives from Cargill to transition acreage from conventional to organic management through subsidized organic crop consulting services provided by the Rodale Institute. The Rodale Institute is a Pennsylvania-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to growing the regenerative organic movement. The Institute has been researching the best practices of organic agriculture and sharing findings with farmers, scientists, and consumers throughout the world since 1947.
Rodale Institute’s Organic Crop Consulting Services were established in 2019 through funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Rodale Institute’s crop consultants are working with more than 150 farmer clients around the U.S. to transition more than 25,000 acres to organic management.
“It has always been a part of Rodale Institute’s mission to help farmers transition to organic production,” said Sam Malriat, Director of Rodale Institute’s Organic Crop Consultancy. “Our decades of research and on-the-ground experience have shown us that organic agriculture is a robust and profitable system that can improve soil health. With this initiative, we can expand our support network and ensure that every farmer has the resources they need to be successful.”
Farmers interested in organic grain production will benefit from the initiative because it eliminates several transition hurdles, including:
- knowing where to start,
- finding education and resources for successful organic land management, and
- a guaranteed market after the three-year transition period.
Contracted growers will receive customized support to aid them through the transition including:
- on-farm consultation,
- organic system planning,
- certification assistance,
- weed management guidance,
- crop rotation planning,
- recordkeeping guidance and
- inspection preparation.
Cargill will offer market access for transition crops, and farmers are guaranteed a dedicated market for their certified organic grains through Bell & Evans.
“We’re proud to partner with Bell & Evans and Rodale Institute to offer an innovative sourcing solution that not only helps to support their projected growth, but also can remove the barriers for farmers in their transition to organic and access to specialty grain markets," said Jeff Vassart, managing director for Cargill’s agricultural supply chain in North America.
Organic market growth
Only 1% of total U.S. acreage is certified organic, yet the organic food market is a growing $50 billion industry. National organic food sales rose 4.6% in 2019, according to the Organic Trade Association. In 2020, Bell & Evans experienced 25% growth in organic chicken sales and projects growth of 27% in 2021 and 17-20% each year after that, through 2024.
In 2020, Bell & Evans raised more than 63 million chickens at its partner broiler farms. That number will increase by more than 50% in 2022. All Bell & Evans chicks begin on organic-certified feed at its organic chicken hatchery and nearly 50% of those chickens continue to be raised organic on organic-certified feed.
The company is one of the largest U.S. organic grain buyers and cites control, traceability, and authenticity of the USDA organic-certified label as reasons for its commitment to domestic grain.
Bell & Evans is a fifth-generation family-owned business. It produces raised without antibiotics, 100% air chilled chicken with nearly 50% organic production. Bell & Evans aims to source 100% organic seeds for its organic grain in the long-term.