The Delmarva chicken community raised 567 million chickens, produced 4.2 billion pounds of shelf- and table-ready chicken and generated a record $4.2 billion in wholesale value in 2021. These insights into the chicken industry's important role in Delmarva's economy come from a new fact sheet released by the Delmarva Chicken Association.
The new DCA report shows that at the end of 2021, there were 1,361 chicken growers on Delmarva who operated 4,901 chicken houses with a total capacity of 134 million chickens. These growers earned $278 million in contract income in 2021, an 18.9% inflation-adjusted increase compared to what Delmarva growers earned 10 years ago. However, the report shows these independent contract growers saw their income fall slightly from 2020 to 2021, because chicken companies had to slow chick placements to adjust for constrained processing capacity. At the same time, demand for chicken in the marketplace remained high. Anticipating that these factors would challenge the entire chicken industry, from the processing plant to the family farm, DCA worked hard to convince Congress to make chicken growers eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) assistance. Contract chicken growers were made eligible for that assistance in the fall of 2021.
Delmarva's chicken companies spent a record $1.3 billion on corn, wheat, soybeans and other feed ingredients in 2021, a nearly 30 percent jump in one year, even as purchase volume of feed ingredients dipped slightly. There were 17,739 chicken company employees on Delmarva at the end of 2021, and chicken company employees earned $803 million in wages for the year, excluding benefits.
The chicken community made valuable long-term investments in Delmarva's economy in 2021, the report shows. Delmarva's five chicken companies - Amick Farms, Allen Harim, Mountaire Farms, Perdue Farms and Tyson - spent $152 million on capital improvements to processing plants, hatcheries and wastewater treatment systems, a $37 million increase from 2020. And with the help of DCA's vegetative environmental buffers program, chicken growers and allied businesses planted more than 5,660 new trees, shrubs and tall grasses - green features on farms that will improve neighbor relations, conserve soil and protect water quality.
"Our members faced uncommon challenges in 2021, including continued pressures from COVID-19, labor shortages and increasing input costs," said Holly Porter, DCA's executive director. "Today, we face additional challenges, like highly pathogenic avian influenza, and inflation, which raises costs borne by chicken growers, chicken companies and the industry's allied businesses. Now more than ever, it's important we all recognize the contributions of this crucial economic sector on Delmarva."
Delmarva's chicken community is a major part of the regional economy. According to an economic impact study by John Dunham & Associates, the chicken industry creates or supports 29,085 jobs in Delaware; 23,965 jobs in Maryland; and 5,035 jobs on Virginia's Eastern Shore.
Since 1957, DCA has collected and compiled production data from the poultry companies operating on Maryland's Eastern Shore, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and in Delaware in order to measure Delmarva's chicken economy. The full 2021 report is available at dcachicken.com.
About Delmarva Chicken Association
Delmarva Chicken Association, founded in 1948, is the Delmarva chicken industry's voice as the premier membership association focusing on advocacy, education and member relations. DCA's vision is to be the most-respected chicken organization in the United States. For more information about the Delmarva Chicken Association, visit www.dcachicken.com or call 302-856-9037.