Governor Jack Markell and Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee recognized the importance of the poultry industry in Delaware last week by presenting a new exhibit at the Delaware Agricultural Museum & Village on Governor’s Day at the Delaware State Fair. The exhibit highlights the impact and achievements of the poultry industry that has been an economic driver for the state of Delaware for centuries.
“Poultry is the engine that drives our agricultural economy here in Delaware,” said Governor Markell. “Seventy-five cents out of every dollar that goes to a farmer in Delaware starts with chicken. That is a truly impressive figure, and shows that we cannot underestimate just how vital the poultry industry is to our state, in all its facets.”
The exhibit, which has been on display at the Delaware State Fair since last week, will move to its new home at the museum this week and stress the importance of the poultry industry on the history and currenty economy of Delaware.
“Delaware’s poultry industry contributes millions of dollars and thousands of jobs to our local economy,” said Kee. “In a time of significant challenge – and opportunity – for agriculture, I believe that we must reinforce our support of the industry.”
Governor Markell also presented certificates of appreciation to representatives of the state’s poultry companies in attendance and to members of the Delaware Nutrient Management Commission.
According to the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) the poultry industry on the Delmarva Peninsula has a substantial economic impact – more than 13,000 jobs working in a $3.2 billion industry. Production accounts for about 2,370 jobs in Delaware, with processing including about 11,000 jobs, according to the University of Delaware. Delmarva hosts 1,700 farm families that raise almost 11 million birds per week.
“Broilers are the lynchpin of our agricultural sector and are directly responsible for generating the primary income for hundreds of Delaware farm families,” said State Rep. Harvey Kenton, R-Milford, who attended the event and sits on the House Agriculture Committee.
The modern broiler industry started as an accident in 1923. Cecile Steele regularly ordered 50 new chicks each spring to replace losses in her flock. However, that year the hatchery mistakenly sent 500 chicks. She decided to keep the birds, selling them 18 weeks later to a wholesaler that marketed the two-and-a-half pound chickens to hotels and restaurants.
“That serendipity led to something incredible,” said State Rep. Jack Peterman, R-Milford, who also attended the event. “There simply is no replacement for chicken production in this state and we need to do everything we can to ensure its continued viability.”