About 567 million chickens produced 4.2 billion pounds of “shelf- and table-ready chicken” and generated a record $4.2 billion in wholesale value last year on the Delmarva Peninsula, a Delmarva Chicken Association report stated.

And according to an economic impact study made 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.

A new association 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 percent inflation-adjusted increase compared to what Delmarva growers earned a decade ago.

The report further 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. DCA says it worked hard to convince congress to make chicken growers eligible for assistance through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Coronavirus Food Assistance Program assistance. They became eligible 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. That total did not include benefits.

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. 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.”

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