Delmarva chicken growers boost output through efficiency

By Alex Vuocolo

Delmarva’s poultry growers produced 4.3 billion pounds of chicken worth $3.4 billion in 2018, according to new data released by Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. That’s a one percent increase from the year prior, even as the total number of chickens (605 million) remained the same.

“It kind of shows the industry doing more with the same,” said James Fisher of DPI.

It wasn’t a single innovation that led to the increase, he added, but rather a series of incremental improvements to processing methods and animal health.

“This isn’t Silicon Valley,” Fisher said.” There isn’t some new app in the poultry industry. It’s about making steady improvements over time.”

Over the past five years, the industry has increased its economic output by 18.6 percent. Last year, companies invested $137 million in capital improvements, including investments in wastewater treatment and processing plants.

The 20,425 chicken company employees on Delmarva earned $784 million in wages in 2018, and the region’s 1,302 chicken growers earned $268 million in contract income. In total, income earned by employees and farmers associated with Delmarva’s chicken industry was $1.05 billion.

“These numbers reflect certain challenges growers and chicken companies faced in 2018, including downward pressure on prices of all proteins, not just chicken,” said Holly Porter, executive director of DPI. “The chicken community on Delmarva used resources efficiently and achieved modest growth in recent years, while at the same time embracing and extending environmental practices that are measurably improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay.”

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