Eastern Shore poultry farms produced $1 billion worth of chicken in 2017, surpassing that milestone for the first time.  Maryland poultry production grew 12 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Statistics.

The growth in value came even as the amount of chicken produced on the Eastern Shore declined by about 10,000 pounds, to 1.84 million pounds.

James Fisher, a spokesman for Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., said that is because companies have found ways to improve efficiency and sell products such as pre-cooked grilled chicken strips that can easily be incorporated into meals. “The number of chickens raised is actually down a percent compared to 20 years ago on Delmarva,” Fisher said. “‘But there’s more meat and value — what’s going on?’ I think a big answer is efficiency and quality control,” according to Fisher.

Maryland was the nation’s ninth-largest producer of broiler chickens in 2017 as ranked by value of production, according to USDA.  Delaware ranked eighth.  Counting the two states together, they would rank seventh in the country.  Georgia is the top chicken producer at $4.4 billion last year.