A Major Economic Engine

Delmarva's chicken industry is a $3.2 billion pillar of our economy. More than 1,700 farm families raise chickens here, and they play a key role in supporting farmers who grow crops like corn, wheat and soybeans, too.
A wide range of local businesses, national companies, contractors, suppliers of services, and other Delmarva businesses that might not consider themselves as part of the chicken industry are all made more profitable by the continued success of our five chicken companies and the more than 1,700 farm families raising chickens here. The work of Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. helps sustain and grow that profitability.
Those same farmers - and the poultry companies they contract with -- understand and share the passion area people have for our natural resources and the beauty of the outdoors. We strive every day to be good stewards of the land, recognizing that protecting groundwater and our other natural resources is a journey of continuous improvement and learning.
In 2016, the Delmarva chicken industry purchased 85.4 million bushels of corn, 35.5 million bushels of soybeans and 1.7 million bushels of wheat. The industry's total feed bill topped $997 million in 2016. Most locally grown corn and soybeans are used to feed Delmarva's chickens. That means chicken industry dollars support Delaware, Maryland and Virginia family farms and the local economy many times over. A strong chicken industry that keeps cropland in production also provides an ecological benefit, since farmland produces less pollution per acre than developed land does.
banquet

Chicken industry supporters gather at DPI's 2017 Booster Banquet in Salisbury, Md.

Payments by chicken companies to contract growers on family farms rose 6 percent in 2016, from $229 million to $243 million. Wages earned by the 14,500 people directly employed by the region's five chicken companies also rose, by 7.7 percent, to $663 million.
At the same time, it's important to note that Delmarva's chicken industry is growing at a moderate pace - and there are fewer chicken houses in operation now than there were 20 years ago.

Thousands of people on Delmarva can succeed because of the chicken industry.

In Delaware, the chicken industry creates or supports more than 12,300 jobs and is responsible for as much as $3.91 billion in total economic activity. Learn more.

On the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the chicken industry creates or supports more than 6,800 jobs and is responsible for as much as $2.04 billion in total economic activity. Learn more.

On Virginia's Eastern Shore, the chicken industry creates or supports more than 6,900 jobs and is responsible for as much as $1.87 billion in total economic activity. Learn more.

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.
farmer

Worker installing a Vegetative Environmental Buffer.

What about added or artificial hormones?

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.