Monday, October 2, 2023

Delmarva’s ‘Chicken GDP’ Hits $5B mark

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GEORGETOWN, Del. — The Delmarva chicken community raised 596 million chickens, produced 4.4 billion pounds of shelf- and table-ready chicken and generated a record $5 billion in wholesale value in 2022. These insights into the chicken industry’s important role in Delmarva’s economy come from a new fact sheet about Delmarva’s chicken industry in 2022 released by the Delmarva Chicken Association.

The new DCA report shows that at the end of 2022, there were 1,334 chicken growers on Delmarva. Their independent, family-owned farms operated 4,889 chicken houses with a total capacity of 134 million chickens. These growers earned $349 million in contract income from Delmarva’s five chicken companies in 2022 — an 18 percent increase from 2021.

Delmarva’s chicken companies spent $1.6 billion on corn, wheat, soybeans and other feed ingredients in 2022 — a 12 percent hike from 2021. There were 18,317 chicken company employees on Delmarva at the end of 2022, and chicken company employees earned $891 million in wages for the year, excluding benefits — a 4 percent increase from 2021. Year over year, grower income, chicken company wages, feed costs, and the value of the chicken we produced all increased in 2022.

“In the spirit of doing more with less, Delmarva’s chicken industry has been able to increase the amount of food we deliver to consumers by 38 percent in the past 20 years even as feed ingredient costs rose sharply and the number of chickens raised in a year grew less than 2 percent in that time,” said Holly Porter, DCA’s executive director. “Last year, growers and businesses overcame challenges to keep feeding America and the world, including steep inflation that made energy, supplies, and feed ingredients more expensive. And the chicken community’s dedication to practicing strict biosecurity limited the impact of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, on Delmarva.”

The chicken community made valuable long-term investments in Delmarva’s economy in 2022, the report shows. Delmarva’s five chicken companies — Amick Farms, Allen Harim, Mountaire Farms, Perdue Farms and Tyson — spent $168 million on capital improvements to processing plants, hatcheries and wastewater treatment systems, a $16 million increase from 2021.

And with the help of DCA’s vegetative environmental buffers program, chicken growers and allied businesses planted 1,729 new trees, shrubs and tall grasses — green features on farms that will improve neighbor relations, conserve soil and protect water quality.

This year, DCA’s “Growing For 100 Years” campaign celebrates the 100th anniversary of Delmarva’s chicken industry, which began in 1923 with a broiler flock raised by Ocean View, Del.’s Cecile Steele. Steele’s 500-chicken flock — which she decided to raise and market for meat after an accidental over-shipment of chicks to her farm – amounts to just 0.00008 percent of today’s annual chicken production on Delmarva.

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