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

In 2019, the Delmarva chicken industry produced 609 million chickens and generated $3.5 billion in value - a 3.8 percent increase in the chicken community's value to Delmarva. Through efficient, conservation-minded farming and processing, we did this without growing the number of active chicken houses in the region.
Compared to the previous year, chicken house capacity fell 3.2 percent, and the number of active chicken houses fell 1 percent. However, the number of growers raising chicken on Delmarva increased slightly to 1,325 farm families. Contract payments to chicken growers increased 4.3 percent in 2019, with farm families earning a combined $280 million. Our chicken company workforce of 20,391 jobs contracted slightly from the prior year.

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In 2019, the Delmarva chicken industry: 1-year change 10-year change 20-year change
Raised 609 million chickens. 0.6% +7.1% +0.4%
Processed 4.3 billion pounds of chickens. +0.2% +23.9% +34.9%
Growers owned 5,114 chicken houses. -1.0% +4.1% -12.1%
The houses had a capacity of 145 million chickens. -3.2% +14.1% +10.8%
There were 1,325 chicken growers. +1.8% -20.5% -47.6%
They earned $280 million in contract income. +4.3% +27.1%* +18.4%*
There were 20,391 chicken company employees. -0.2% +38.7% +45.7%
They earned $780 million in wages, excluding benefits. -0.5% +47.5%* +42.9%*
Feed ingredients for chickens were purchased for $1.01 billion. -0.3% -3.2%* +36.2%*
The wholesale value of chicken produced was $3.5 billion. +3.8% +39.8%* +50.7%*
* Inflation-adjusted.

Chicken growers and companies planted 17,025 trees and grass plugs in 2019 as part of Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc.'s vegetative environmental buffers program.

Chicken companies purchased 89 million bushels of corn, 38 million bushels of soybeans, and 427,000 bushels of wheat for chicken feed in 2019.

Chicken companies purchased $262 million in packaging and processing supplies in 2019.

Delmarva's chicken companies invested $159 million in capital improvements in 2019, including investments in wastewater treatment and processing plants.

Here's what DCA achieved in 2019.

We advocated for the chicken community at every turn.

DCA convinced lawmakers to reject legislation that could have added onerous, expensive air quality monitoring requirements for Maryland farmers; the bill did not pass for a third straight year. Through lobbying and conversations with lawmakers and their staffs, we secured several favorable amendments to an bill signed into law that changed nutrient management requirements. In Virginia, we stayed on top of regulations affecting water withdrawal permits, securing an outcome favorable to chicken growers.

By expanding sponsorship opportunities, we diversified our revenue.

Heeding our strategic plan's call to diversify DCA's revenue, we added new sponsorship opportunities to our College Scholarship Program golf tournament and the National Meeting on Poultry Health, Processing, and Live Production. We also introduced banner advertising opportunities in Chicken Chatter, our weekly e-newsletter. In 2020, a newly appointed finance committee and treasurer will explore even more ways to diversify DCA's revenue - giving us added resources to put to work helping our members.

We collaborated with other groups invested in agriculture.

  • In cooperation with the National Chicken Council, we added a virtual reality tour of a chicken farm to our display at events like the Delaware State Fair, giving consumers a richer picture of how chickens are raised.
  • Working with The Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment and the Maryland Department of the Environment, we forged ahead with an innovative partnership to monitor ambient air quality on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
  • We also collaborated with the Delmarva Land & Litter Collaborative (DLLC), a forum for diverse partners to identify solutions that support both healthy and productive ecosystems and farming and poultry, to help the DLLC publish the "Exploring Chicken Farming on Delmarva" online storyboard. See it at

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.