Delmarva chicken industry revenues hit $5 billion

The new Delmarva Chicken Association report shows that industry revenues have grown to $5 billion.

At the end of 2022, there were 1,334 chicken growers in portions of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Sussex County has traditionally been the largest chicken grower in Delmarva.

The number of growers has declined by more than 40% in the past two decades. The growers on family-owned farms operated 4,889 chicken houses with a total capacity of 134 million chickens.

The growers earned $349 million in contract income from Delmarva’s five chicken companies in 2022 – an 18 percent increase from 2021. Delmarva’s chicken companies spent $1.6 billion on corn, wheat, soybeans, and other feed ingredients in 2022 – a 12 percent hike from 2021. There were 18,317 chicken company employees in Delmarva at the end of 2022.

Chicken company employees earned $891 million in wages for the year, excluding benefits – a 4 percent increase from 2021.
(See fact sheet below)
From the Delmarva Chicken Association
“In the spirit of doing more with less, Delmarva’s chicken industry has been able to increase the amount of food we deliver to consumers by 38 percent in the past 20 years even as feed ingredient costs rose sharply and the number of chickens raised in a year grew less than 2 percent in that time,” said Holly Porter, DCA’s executive director. “Last year, growers and businesses overcame challenges to keep feeding America and the world, including steep inflation that made energy, supplies, and feed ingredients more expensive. And the chicken community’s dedication to practicing strict biosecurity limited the impact of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, on Delmarva.”

The chicken community made long-term investments in Delmarva’s economy in 2022, the report indicated. Delmarva’s five chicken companies – Amick Farms, Allen Harim, Mountaire Farms, Perdue Farms and Tyson – spent $168 million on capital improvements to processing plants, hatcheries and wastewater treatment systems, a $16 million increase from 2021. With the help of DCA’s vegetative environmental buffers program, chicken growers and allied businesses planted 1,729 new trees, shrubs and tall grasses – green features on farms that will improve neighbor relations, conserve soil and protect water quality.

The Delmarva Chicken Association is marking the 100th anniversary of the industry with DCA’s “Growing For 100 Years” campaign. The industry began in 1923 with a broiler flock raised by Ocean View resident Cecile Steele. Steele’s 500-chicken flock – which she decided to raise and market for meat after an accidental over-shipment of chicks to her farm – amounts to just 0.00008% of today’s annual chicken production on Delmarva, the association noted.

The chicken association has evolved into playing more of an advocacy role in the industry after spending much of its history promoting chicken consumption and sponsoring an annual festival for many years on the peninsula.

The industry faces challenges, including wastewater management of processing plants, poultry waste disposal, and a growing population in Delmarva, with some newer residential developments near some chicken farms. As noted above, the association is involved in efforts to put buffers that include trees around chicken houses to improve relations with neighbors.

The industry has coped with the perception that chicken growing operations have expanded. The growth in new chicken houses has largely come from growers investing in newer buildings, with the actual number of chickens grown remaining stagnant over the past two decades.

There have also been worries about massive chicken-growing “factory” operations operated by corporate interests that could strain relations with neighbors. Few if any, such projects have been proposed.