Here's how the chicken community is working for Delmarva.

In 2022, the Delmarva chicken community raised 596 million chickens, produced 4.4 billion pounds of chicken and generated $5 billion in wholesale value - the most productive year ever in Delmarva's 100-year history of producing chicken for consumers. In the spirit of doing more with less, Delmarva's chicken industry was able to increase production by 38 percent in the past 10 years even as the number of chicken houses in operation during that time dropped by 11 percent, and inflation-adjusted feed ingredient costs more than doubled. Year over year, the chicken community on Delmarva increased production by 4 percent while slightly decreasing the number of chicken houses in active use.
Delmarva's chicken companies spent a record $1.6 billion on corn, wheat, soybeans and other feed ingredients in 2022, and paid their employees $891 million in wages, excluding benefits. The family farmers who contract with the companies to raise chickens earned $349 million in contract payments, or 18.2 percent more than in 2021 - a reflection of the pace of inflation during 2022. Those growers, of course, faced inflation pressure of their own when purchasing equipment, supplies, and energy for their farms. Altogether, 1,334 farm families raising chicken and 18,317 chicken company employees worked hand-in-hand to produce Delmarva chicken with a wholesale value of $5 billion.

Table can be swiped/scrolled horizontally [ ] on devices with smaller viewing areas.

In 2022, the Delmarva chicken community: 1-year change 10-year change 20-year change
Raised 596 million chickens. 5.1% 6.7% 1.9%
Processed 4.4 billion pounds of chickens. 4.0% 21.7% 38.4%
Operated 4,889 chicken houses on independently owned farms. -0.2% 13.7% 9.2%
The houses had a capacity of 134 million chickens. -0.2% 13.7% 9.2%
There were 1,334 chicken growers. -2.0% -18.3% -42.5%
They earned $355 million in contract income. 20.1% 44.5%* 59.0%*
There were 18,317 chicken company employees. 3.3% 37.7% 27.2%
They earned $891 million in wages, excluding benefits. 4.3% 55.6%* 58.4%*
Feed ingredients for chickens were purchased for $1.6 billion. 12.3% -2.4%* 109.6%*
The wholesale value of chicken produced was $5 billion. 12.0% 44.6%* 125.3%*
* Inflation-adjusted.

Chicken companies purchased $359 million in packaging and processing supplies in 2022.

Chicken companies purchased 89 million bushels of corn, 39 million bushels of soybeans, and 428,482 bushels of wheat primarily from Delaware, Maryland and Virginia grain farmers for chicken feed in 2022.

Delmarva's chicken companies invested $168 million in capital improvements in 2022, including investments in wastewater treatment, hatcheries and processing plants.

Here's what DCA achieved in 2022.

Growing for 100 Years Campaign

Delmarva Chicken Association (DCA) planned and launched a year-long educational campaign, "Growing For 100 Years," to celebrate the innovation and growth of the meat chicken industry. Cecile Steele of Ocean View, Del. pioneered the industry in 1923 when she accidentally received a shipment of 500 chickens instead of her 50-chick order, and decided to raise and market them for meat - a novel way to farm at the time. Within a few years, her success inspired hundreds of Delmarva farmers to raise broilers, and the modern American chicken industry was born. Throughout 2023, Delmarva residents and visitors will learn more about the meat chicken industry on TV, digital platforms, publications, billboards across the region, and community events. DCA has secured more than $46,000 in grant funding to support the campaign.

Malone Award

John and Linda Brown, who own L&J Farm in Harrington, Del., received the inaugural George 'Bud' Malone Environmental Award in 2022. The award, presented by DCA's Grower Committee, recognizes DCA grower members who have gone above and beyond in incorporating sustainable, environmentally-friendly features on their farms. The Browns have twice invested in solar energy; they incorporate a broad spectrum of vegetative buffers in their land, including tall grasses quite close to fans; and use an in-vessel composter for mortality.


In 2022, DCA was awarded a $192,000 grant from the state of Delaware, under the auspices of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Section 319 Nonpoint Source Program Grant, to cost-share two specific kinds of vegetative environmental buffers on farms in several specific Delaware watersheds: hedgerows of warm-season grasses near the tunnel fans and other fans on chicken houses, and pollinator-friendly plantings. By adding in our $262,235 matching funds over the course of this three-year project, we're putting more than $450,000 behind this ambitious effort.

Electric Buying Group

The global energy market's swings and shifts complicated our efforts to lock in affordable energy supply prices in 2021 for eligible DCA electric buying group members served by Delmarva Power, but waiting until 2022 paid off when we were able to lock in a favorable fixed-rate contract with WGL Energy in November. The new rate will keep electric supply rates for buying group members stable through May 2026.

Learn more: Reports & Documents

The fact sheets and visuals below provide important economic data about Delmarva's chicken industry.

How does the chicken industry help protect the environment?

Delmarva chicken farmers realize regulations are necessary to protect people, animals and the environment. We work with local and state government officials to ensure the health and well-being of the animals, environment and our neighbors.
We work with local governments to make our farms better neighbors. In recent years, we've adopted voluntary guidelines to encourage more space between new chicken houses and neighboring properties and residents, while working with farmers to plant trees and grasses as living buffers next to their chicken houses. We've worked with county officials as they adopted laws to accomplish these goals. Chicken farmers are part of Delmarva's communities and work hard to remain a welcomed segment of the landscape.
Delmarva's farm families are some of most regulated farms in the country. This regulation is accepted by Delmarva's chicken farmers and we have made significant advancements with measurable improvements in farming practices to protect water supplies.

Worker installing a Vegetative Environmental Buffer.

What about added hormones or steroids?

No artificial or added hormones are used in raising chickens anywhere in the United States. In fact, it's been illegal to do so since the 1950s. We realize this can be confusing when you see "hormone-free" on a chicken product label at the grocery store. But, that label must also include a statement that hormones are not used in the production of any poultry. We keep our chickens healthy with proper nutrition, good veterinary care and quality living conditions.

What about antibiotics?

Today, antibiotics are used in chickens and other farm animals for the same reason they are used in people - to treat or prevent disease that causes pain and suffering. When birds are sick with a bacterial infection, we treat them with antibiotics because it is the ethical thing to do.
Government regulations exist to prevent antibiotic residue in meat. The U.S. has the safest food supply in the world. Chicken farmers must adhere to specific antibiotic withdrawal times that have been established to ensure that meat entering the food supply is antibiotic free and safe.
Providing safe, wholesome chicken for consumers begins with providing the birds with a clean, safe growing environment. When birds get sick or are threatened by disease, the ethical use of antibiotics is good for the animals, but also good for people. The healthier the animal, the less likely bacteria enters the food supply. Farmers, companies and others in the Delmarva chicken industry support consumer and production method choice. Our family farms use a variety of production methods - including, for some, no-antibiotics-ever production -- to provide consumers with a choice in the decisions they make for themselves and their families. Finding ways to raise chickens without any antibiotics is the latest example of an industry committed to innovation, producing a wide range of chicken products for a wide range of consumers.

Where does all the chicken manure go?

Chicken manure provides area farmers with a locally-produced, organic, slow-release plant food that enhances soil health, quality and ability to retain moisture. This provides area farmers with chemical fertilizer alternatives and conserves natural resources.
Chicken farms do not simply dump chicken manure, or chicken litter - manure and wood shavings that make up the bedding in a chicken house - into waterways, or haphazardly apply manure to farm fields. Each Delmarva chicken farm is required to provide the state a natural resources protection plan. These plans are unique to each farm to ensure manure is handled in a way that keeps it away from the water supplies that are so important to our communities. In fact, in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, agriculture's commitment to responsibility has led to demonstrable reductions in the amount of nitrogen, a common nutrient, in the Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other Bay monitors have recognized and applauded this progress.
Regardless of the size or type of a farm, carefully formulated feed, access to a plentiful supply of clean water and food, adequate room to grow, professional veterinary attention and proper handling are all important factors in raising chickens. Delmarva's poultry farmers are committed to providing excellent care for their birds.