Thursday, September 21, 2023

DCA launches campaign to celebrate a century of growing chicken

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GEORGETOWN, Del. — The Delmarva Chicken Association has launched a year-long educational campaign, “Growing For 100 Years,” to celebrate the innovation and growth of the meat chicken industry, which began a century ago in Ocean View, Del.

Cecile Steele of Sussex County, Del., pioneered the industry in 1923 when she accidentally received a shipment of 500 chickens. This prompted her and her husband, Wilmer, to build the first broiler chicken farm on Delmarva. Within three years, this Delaware family had built coops for 10,000 chickens and jumpstarted an American innovation — a farm dedicated to raising chickens not for eggs, but to eat.

Since that first broiler chicken flock in 1923, the industry has made remarkable advances, giving generations of family farmers a way to make a living from the land, serving as the backbone of Delmarva’s economy, and protecting the environment by utilizing fewer resources to produce more chicken.

Today, there are more than 1,300 family farmers on Delmarva, more than 18,000 chicken company employees, and hundreds of allied businesses in the chicken community, working together to produce $4.5 billion worth of chicken a year.

“Cecile Steele’s inspired idea 100 years ago has impacted not only the Delmarva region, but America and the world,” said DCA Executive Director Holly Porter. “This campaign is about paying tribute to the farmers, chicken companies, and allied businesses advancing the industry, and looking forward to the bright future ahead for the chicken community.”

DCA 75th anniversary

This year is also the 75th anniversary of Delmarva Chicken Association, founded in 1948 to organize the Delmarva Chicken Festival and formerly known as Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc.

To kick off the Growing For 100 Years campaign, DCA and presenting sponsor Perdue Farms hosted a launch event at the Delaware Agricultural Museum in Dover, Del. on Feb. 11. More than 150 industry leaders, innovators, farmers, lawmakers, and officials attended to mark the occasion.

Delaware’s congressional delegation of U.S. Senators Tom Carper, Chris Coons and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (all D-Del.) honored this milestone in a Congressional Record Statement.

“The industry may have started with an accidental delivery, but we can look back on it now as an amazing economic opportunity for Delmarva and the thousands of families it supports,” said Carper. “Raising broiler chickens is a way of life for the more than 1,300 farm families on Delmarva whose hard work provides food for hundreds of thousands of people in our country and around the world.”

“100 years ago, a resourceful woman from Sussex County created an industry that feeds the world today,” said Delaware Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long. “Chicken is vital to Delaware’s economy, and it’s an honor to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of Cecile Steele’s first flock.”

“Delaware’s mild climate, infrastructure, and closeness to key markets smoothed the way, but the growth of the chicken industry happened thanks to hard work by farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs,” said Michael T. Scuse, Delaware’s Secretary of Agriculture. “On this important anniversary, we thank generations of farmers and companies who dedicated themselves to feeding their neighbors.”

“Chicken producers’ positive economic impact stretches from coast to coast, hits every sector of the U.S. economy and is felt in every congressional district,” said National Chicken Council President Mike Brown. “We’re also committed to environmentally responsible chicken production practices to ensure a healthier planet, and chicken production in the U.S. is more sustainable than ever before.”

Throughout the year, Delmarva residents and visitors can expect to learn about the meat chicken industry on TV, digital platforms, publications, billboards across the region, and community events in Maryland and Delaware.

To learn more about this 100th anniversary, visit

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