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Delmarva Chicken Facts

Delmarva Poultry Industry produced 4,206,500 lbs of chicken in 2001 - that's 14% of all poultry produced in the United States .

The first "broilers" in the US were produced in Sussex Co., Delaware by Mrs. Wilmer Steele in 1923. By 1930 the industry had been established.

Through the 1930s Delmarva dominated broiler production. The WW II Food Administration placed a "first call freeze" on all poultry products in Delmarva. The result was that broiler production migrated to other southeastern states.

The broiler industry accounted for $1.28 billion - or 9 percent of Delmarva's gross regional product, and 33,500 jobs as of 2001, one in every twelve jobs in Delmarva.

Daniel holding a Delmarva chicken
Delaware chicken (and Daniel)

How did chickens get here?


All birds are descendants of an ancient flying reptile called the Archaeoptrix


All domestic chickens (Gallus domesticus) are descended from the Red Jungle Fowl.


Four jungle fowl species (Red, Green, Grey, and Ceylon) inhabited southeast Asia and China


The Chinese domesticated the Red Jungle Fowl for cock fighting about 1400 BC.


Domestic chickens first came to North America in the early 1700s as residue of the food supplies.


From early imports the American chicken breeds were developed (Dominiques, Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, New Hampshires, etc).


  Mrs. Steel and the first "broilers" on the Shore

A farm housewife, Cecile Steele of Ocean View, Delaware, mistakenly received 500 chicks from her hatchery supplier.  Instead of sending them back, she raised these chickens for meat and later sold them to a local buyer, who in turn found northern markets for them. 

The success of this enterprise led other farmers to begin raising chickens solely for meat.  By the mid-1930s, broiler production in the United States had increased to 34 million birds annually, with Delmarva raising about two-thirds of the total.  Four counties on the Delmarva Peninsula - Sussex County in Delaware, Worcester and Wicomico in Maryland, and Accomack in Virginia were among the top five broiler production counties in the nation. 


More Facts about the Delmarva Poultry Industry

The poultry industry is the largest agricultural sector on Delmarva.  In the four counties of Maryland's lower Eastern Shore, Delaware's two rural counties, and Accomack County in Virginia, farm revenue from poultry enterprises make up three-fourths of the total value of farm sales.  And most of the rest of farm sales come from feed crops, which are almost entirely fed to Delmarva poultry.  The Delmarva broiler industry includes:

Feed Mills
Processing plants
Agricultural services
Administrative headquarters
Fertilizer pellet plant

Today Salisbury is Maryland's second largest port (after Baltimore), carrying oil products, aggregates for building, and feed for the region's broiler industry. One offshoot has been the development of oil processed from soybeans, a major agricultural crop, for use in food.

Per capita of poultry meat is highest of all meat groups.

bulletSurpassed Pork in 1982.
bulletBroilers passed Pork in 1985.
bulletSurpassed Beef in 1988.
bulletBroiler consumption alone surpasses beef in 1993.
sourcesU.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Mississippi University, Delmarva Poultry Industry, The Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce.


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