Delmarva’s chicken industry posted a single-digit drop in production, but still raised 570 million chickens with a wholesale value of $3.4 billion in 2020, according to a new report from Georgetown-based Delmarva Chicken Association.
Pounds of chickens processed, number of farms, chicken company payroll and wholesale value – all shrank in 2020.
Chicken companies paid the contract farmers $280 million in 2020, an 0.2 percent increase from 2019.
More than $1 billion spent on crops like corn, soybeans and wheat, most of it purchased locally.
There were 1,278 chicken growers on Delmarva in 2020 operating 5,036 active chicken houses; they raised 570 million chickens.
The region’s five chicken companies – Amick Farms, Allen Harim, Mountaire Farms, Perdue Farms and Tyson – spent $115 million on capital improvements to processing plants, hatcheries and wastewater treatment systems.
With the help of DCA’s vegetative environmental buffers program, chicken growers and allied businesses planted more than 6,000 new trees and living buffer elements during the year – green features that will improve neighbor relations and protect water quality for generations to come.
“This year’s economic snapshot captures the impact on our chicken community from COVID-19, from the chicken processing companies to the growers and everyone in between,” said Holly Porter, DCA’s executive director. “But it also speaks to the resiliency and strength of this economic driver on Delmarva and the commitment our members live up to by not only powering our Delmarva economy, but also feeding each and every one of us even during a pandemic.”
The industry was hit early by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially at its onset as poultry plants and workers battled early outbreaks. Farmers serving one processor were forced to euthanize chickens when the was forced to reduce production and the birds became too large.
The Washington Post calculated that Covid-19 accounted for 17 deaths among poultry workers on the peninsula.