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Chicken economic report shows effects of COVID-19 headwinds

Credit: buhanovskiy/iStock/Thinkstock. broiler chickens
Chicken production in 2020 dipped about 5% and the number of active chicken growers fell by 4%.

Delmarva’s chicken community raised 570 million chickens with a wholesale value of $3.4 billion in 2020, according to newly released economic data from the Delmarva Chicken Association (DCA). The DCA report shows chicken production on Delmarva dipped about 5% in 2020 compared to the prior year because of economic contractions and supply chain disruptions felt most acutely at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of active chicken growers also fell by 4% while chicken house capacity grew by 3%.

Several metrics that measure year-to-year growth of the Delmarva chicken industry – including pounds of chickens processed, number of farms, chicken company payroll and wholesale value – all shrank in 2020. Still, chicken companies paid their contract independent farmers $280 million in 2020, a 0.2% increase from 2019.

The chicken community’s important role as a major customer of grain farmers for feed ingredients was also preserved, with more than $1 billion spent on crops like corn, soybeans, and wheat, most of which was purchased locally.

There were 1,278 chicken growers on Delmarva in 2020 operating 5,036 active chicken houses. They raised 570 million chickens and earned a total of $280 million in contract income from the region's five chicken companies.

DCADelmarva chicken 2020.png

The chicken community’s long-term investments in Delmarva’s economy and its environment did not falter in 2020, the report shows. The five chicken companies – Amick Farms, Allen Harim, Mountaire Farms, Perdue Farms and Tyson – spent $115 million on capital improvements to processing plants, hatcheries and wastewater treatment systems. With the help of DCA’s vegetative environmental buffers program, chicken growers and allied businesses planted more than 6,000 new trees and living buffer elements during the year – green features that will improve neighbor relations and protect water quality for generations to come.

“This year’s economic snapshot captures the impact on our chicken community from COVID-19, from the chicken processing companies to the growers and everyone in between,” said Holly Porter, DCA’s executive director. “But it also speaks to the resiliency and strength of this economic driver on Delmarva and the commitment our members live up to by not only powering our Delmarva economy, but also feeding each and every one of us even during a pandemic.”

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