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

In 2021, the Delmarva chicken community raised 567 million chickens, supplied 4.2 billion pounds of shelf- and table-ready chicken and generated a record $4.2 billion in wholesale value. Headwind effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and labor challenges are clear in this year's report. Because of reduced processing plant capacity at times during 2021, Delmarva processed 3 million fewer chickens last year than the year before. That meant reduced income for the independent growers who raise chickens through contracts with the processing companies. Anticipating these challenges, DCA worked with others in the chicken community to encourage Congress to make chicken growers eligible for CFAP 2 assistance, which growers did receive in 2021. The challenges inflation poses to the chicken industry are also evident, as Delmarva's chicken companies spent a record $1.3 billion on corn, wheat, soybeans and other feed ingredients - a nearly 30 percent jump in one year, even as purchase volume dipped slightly. Altogether, 1,361 farm families raising chicken and 17,739 chicken company employees produced Delmarva chicken with a wholesale value of $4.2 billion.

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In 2021, the Delmarva chicken community: 1-year change 10-year change 20-year change
Raised 567 million chickens. -0.5% 0.7% -3.4%
Processed 4.2 billion pounds of chickens. -0.4% 19% 35%
Operated 4,901 chicken houses on independently owned farms. -2.7% 8.3% -13.9%
The houses had a capacity of 134 million chickens. -9.8% 13.2% 7.8%
There were 1,361 chicken growers. -1.2% -13.3% -45.8%
They earned $278 million in contract income. -1% 18.9%* 24.6%*
There were 17,739 chicken company employees. -1.2% 34.8% 23.4%
They earned $803 million in wages, excluding benefits. 8.3% 38.4%* 47.4%*
Feed ingredients for chickens were purchased for $1.3 billion. 29.6% -8.2%* 90.2%*
The wholesale value of chicken produced was $4.2 billion. 25.3% 51.3%* 94.3%*
* Inflation-adjusted.

Chicken growers and businesses planted 5,663 trees and grass plugs in 2021 in Delmarva Chicken Association's vegetative environmental buffers program.

Chicken companies purchased $300 million in packaging and processing supplies in 2021.

Chicken companies purchased 87 million bushels of corn, 35 million bushels of soybeans, and 546,000 bushels of wheat primarily from Delaware, Maryland and Virginia grain farmers for chicken feed in 2021.

Delmarva's chicken companies invested $152 million in capital improvements in 2021, including investments in wastewater treatment, hatcheries and processing plants.

Here's what DCA achieved in 2021.

CFAP 2 Aid

DCA worked with senators and representatives to ensure Congress and USDA made changes allowing contract growers to be eligible for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP. We were pleased when USDA adjusted CFAP 2, the second round of the pandemic assistance, and made contract growers eligible for the aid in 2021. The decline we saw in contract grower payments from 2020 to 2021 shows how important CFAP assistance was to Delmarva’s chicken community.


DCA believed we could help solve the challenge of connecting those who have litter with those who want litter. By working with several interested stakeholders and securing a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant, we helped to solve that challenge. Our Littr. app was introduced in early January, and now has more than 450 users across multiple states. Several service providers like brokers and custom applicators have told us Littr. has helped them expand their businesses. Interest for the app goes well beyond Delmarva, as other states throughout the country are asking how they can use this tool.

Events to Connect

We staged a new event this year, the Booster BBQ, at the Quillen Arena in Harrington, Del., and members told us it was a great success. More than 750 attendees turned out to enjoy this casual networking event, with great food, music and nearly 50 vendors. To give our members more opportunities to reconnect in person and share insights, we resumed the in-person National Meeting on Poultry Health, Processing and Live Production for an audience of nearly 300 attendees from 29 states. We also brought back the College Scholarship Golf Tournament, played for the first time at Glen Riddle Golf Club in Berlin, Md.

VEB Demo Days

In June, DCA hosted chicken growers on farms in Maryland and Delaware, partnering with Nanticoke Watershed Alliance to showcase farms that have planted and nurtured vegetative environmental buffers in novel places to improve air quality, efficiency and appearance. We also collaborated to produce a brochure explaining the benefits of pollinator-friendly buffers on poultry farms.

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.