The broiler business processed 4.2 billion pounds of Delmarva-raised chickens in 2017 at a wholesale value of $3.4 billion, according to new data released by Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. (DPI).
The Delmarva chicken community raised 605 million chickens in 2017, two percent more chickens than it raised in 2016. At the same time, contract payments made to chicken growers by the region’s five chicken companies rose five percent in 2017, with 1,549 family farmers earning $256 million in contract income.
“We are heartened to see the chicken industry continues to be one of Delmarva’s economic bright spots,” said Bill Satterfield, executive director of DPI. “The farmers and companies who comprise the chicken community worked hard to achieve a modest rate of year-over-year growth in 2017, producing nutritious, affordable, tasty chicken while doing right by the communities in which we all live.”
Since 1957, DPI has collected and compiled data from the poultry companies operating in central and southern Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
The 2017 data reflect the construction of some new chicken houses around the region.
There were 5,091 chicken houses in operation on Delmarva at the end of 2017 an eight percent increase over 2016. That represents a 12 percent decline from the number of chicken houses that were in operation 20 years ago.
An average Delmarva chicken farm operates with 3.2 chicken houses, the data show. The data also show Delmarva’s ‘chicken capacity’ – the total number of birds that can be housed at any one time – has increased only 0.55 percent each year, on average, over the past two decades.
The poultry industry has been battling the perception that chicken production and the number of chicken houses have skyrocketed.
The industry is also feeling the effects of development pressures as more subdivisions end up adjacent to long-time farms.
There has also been a push for more regulations in Maryland from some legislators. In Delaware, problems with wells and waste treatment around one poultry plant remaining an issue.
In recent years, the focus of DPI has shifted from promoting chicken as a food option to public policy issues affecting the industry. A few years ago, the group ended the annual chicken festival.
In its report, DPI pointed to growers and producers working to be good neighbors.
Chicken companies and family farmers raising chickens planted more than 8,400 trees and grasses as part of DPI’s vegetative environmental buffers program.
DPI works with chicken growers to plant vegetative environmental buffers on their farms, stressing the economic, water quality, air quality and good-neighbor benefits, a release stated.
Delmarva’s chicken companies also invested $152 million in capital improvements in 2017, including investments in solar energy, hatcheries, and processing plants, and purchased $240 million in packaging and processing supplies in 2017.