Delmarva And Its Poultry Industry
1923 a hardworking housewife, by the name of Cecile Steele from Ocean View,
Delaware with fiery red hair and a personality to match, mistakenly attained a
brood of 500 chickens a vast increase from the usual fifty that were used in egg
production. Cecile, being a smart
and industrious person, decided to keep the chicks rather than send them back
and used this mistake to her advantage. She
saw the chance to make a little extra cash and she took it.
When 38% of them reached two pounds live weight she sold them for 62
cents a pound. Cecile, with her
savvy business sense, did not stop there. The
following year she increased her profits by selling 1,000 chickens for 50 cents
word of Cecile’s profits spread, meat type chickens, as they were described,
began appearing in Sussex and Southern Kent counties in Delaware, Worcester,
Wicomico, Somerset, and Caroline Counties in Maryland, and finally Accomack
county in Virginia. Before this
time chicken were raised in small amounts as barnyard fowl.
They were considered useful only for egg producing purposes.
Egg hatcheries were the first chicken related industry.
At the end of World War One a number of poultry firms were producing
table eggs to be sold for market. After
Cecile’s discovery this all changed. With
news of her profits, the number of broilers produced on the peninsula jumped
from 50,000 in 1925 to seven million in 1934, and by 1941 forty-eight million
broilers were produced. The
Delmarva Peninsula was on its way to pioneering an industry whose strength would
grow to proportions no one quite anticipated.[ii]
Mistakes happen in life, and it is often from our mistakes that we learn or gain the most . It is hard to believe that the mistake of one woman in 1923 lead to the birth of a multi-billion dollar a year industry that got its start on the Delmarva Peninsula and continues to exist there today. It has been almost 81 years since the poultry industry first appeared and the it has had a great impact on the Delmarva region. The Delmarva Peninsula, because of attributes like its geography, work forces, and climate, was able to give rise to what has become an incredibly profitable industry for the region. However factors such as the labor force that contributed to the early success of this industry, are experiencing difficulty today. The once abundant labor supply for the chicken industry has undergone a transformation and now consists almost solely of an immigrant labor force which has been carried over from the fall of the trucking and canning industries and the diminished need for migratory workers. This immigrant population while extremely valuable in providing necessary labor to the Peninsula’s poultry industry, is causing a shift in the culture and demographic of the region. In addition the region is facing special pressures of land development. Loss of farmland is accelerating and farmers are facing pressure as land in the area is being developed and urbanization is on the rise. Farmers are becoming torn between making a large profit by selling their farm or keeping their farms because of the importance it has for our area. Thus the poultry industry did not just transform the agriculture of Wicomico county and the rest of the peninsula, but the culture, demographic, and the cityscape.
factors contributed to the early success of the poultry industry on the Delmarva
Peninsula. The mild climate of the region keeps heating and fueling costs at a
minimum, while the sandy soil facilitates drainage of liquids in chicken manure,
thus helping to control disease. Building
costs were also able to be kept at a minimum because much of the peninsula was
covered by lush green pine forests in the 1920’s and 1930’s making timber
easily accessible and inexpensive. Additionally,
the peninsula is also in close proximity to important markets in America, such
as Philadelphia and New York, so finding a market for the chickens was not a
problem. Finally, many of the
workers had prior experience with chickens by raising them as barnyard fowl and
using them for the production of table eggs.[iii]
only were building costs low, but land was cheap as well, and banks, seeing
dollar signs, were eager and willing to give growers credit.
In the state of Delaware there was a tendency among farmers to rent their
land rather than own it during the time that the poultry industry was expanding.
One of the things that was appealing about the chicken industry for the
initial farmers was that a large amount of land was not needed.
This meant that one could become a chicken farmer on a small amount of
land and thus one did not have to be wealthy to become a chicken farmer.[iv]
twenties were a hard time economically for the Delmarva Peninsula, many of the
farmers here could not compete with the farmers of the west.
They had a hard time competing with staple crops such as corn and wheat.
Trucking crops to Baltimore and further north was one of the only
competitive advantages the farmers of the region had going for them.
Many of these farmers had to rely on two jobs, farming and fishing.
It is in this context that geography helped play a role in expanding the
chicken industry on the Delmarva Peninsula.[v]
made available a labor force as a result of the opening of the Assawoman Canal.
In the 1920’s the salinity levels in the waters of the Indian River Bay
Barrier Islands were changing. These
barrier islands helped to protect the eastern coast of the peninsula from the
harsh and damaging surf of the Atlantic Ocean as well as the bays of the region.
However, every time that the ocean backed up bay waters broke through the
barrier islands and forced open a new inlet or silted up an old inlet causing
salinity levels in the bay to rise or fall. These events had a significant impact on the local marine
life. In 1925 the closing of the
inlet from the Atlantic Ocean caused hundreds of watermen to lose their jobs.[vi]
The closing of the inlet caused decreases in the catch of local fisherman who
depended on oysters, crabs, and other various marine life, which was devastating
to their income.[vii]
It was at this time that news of Cecile Steel’s discovery was spreading
throughout the region. Many of
these men in desperate need of money and having no other alternatives, were then
able to move into jobs in broiler production as it slowly expanded throughout
Williams, William H. Delmarva’s Chicken Industry: 75 Years of Progress. Delaware: Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc, 1998 pg. 10.
The cost of labor was low in the early days of poultry processing which
was important because many of the early techniques in processing were extremely
labor intensive. A hatchery
provided chicks for broiler production. Many
hatcheries started off producing chicks for egg production but as broiler
production increased, the
hatcheries switched to producing chicks for the broiler growers. When chickens were first delivered from the hatchery,
“chick guards” made of cloth covered wire were used to keep the young
broilers warm by concentrating them next to the broiler stoves.[viii]
Initially, these young chickens had to be fed manually.
This meant that the growers had to place paper around the brooder stoves
and put the food on the paper. They
then filled numerous water crocks and placed them around each stove.
When the chickens were big enough to eat out of a feeder the chicken
house was opened and growers used different techniques to feed and water the
adult chickens. At this stage each
grower emptied one hundred pound bags of feed into a wheelbarrow or carrier and
walked around the house filling five foot long troughs with the feed. Water was stored in a pressurized barrel that allowed it to
drip into watering trays and the drip turned on or off according to the water
This managing of the stoves and hauling of the feed was an exhausting and
unpleasant step in raising broilers. This
method was hard labor and often time consuming, as one early chicken farmer
“When I got involved in the poultry
industry, chickens were hand fed. You can't imagine how excited we were when
they invented automatic feeders. Having
gone to these, we saved a great
deal of time. This in turn allowed us to care for more chickens, therefore, we
built new chicken houses.” [x]
The initial growers did not keep the chickens in the chicken houses all
the time, they were allowed to roam
free in the yard during the day and were brought back into the chicken house at
night. In the yard chickens would
feed on worms and other insects and eventually when back in the chicken house
they would be feed the corn. There
were commercial chicken feed companies around at this time as well that provided
feed for the chickens. Thus early
on as the industry was expanding on the peninsula there was a combination of
feed being bought and feed being grown. Eventually
when the chickens were kept strictly inside the house by the 1940’s, the
chicken feed industry was more commercialized and all feed was commercial feed.[xi]
being raised during World War II, still being let free to roam chicken yard
Williams, William H. Delmarva’s Chicken
Industry: 75 Years of Progress. Delaware: Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc,
1998 Pg. 26.
the early days growers had to live in close proximity to their houses in order
to keep a close eye on their chickens. It
was almost as if the growers lived, breathed, and ate chickens, twenty-four
hours a day because so much went into the care of the chickens.
Some growers owned more than one farm hiring both male and female
caretakers to live on additional sites.[xii]
In fact, during the 1930’s and 1940’s many chickens were kept in
houses similar to the chicken houses of today, except that they had a two-story
structure in the middle. On the ground level of the structure was a room which stored
feed and other materials needed for the chickens, while the second story was an
apartment for the chicken farmer and his family.[xiii]
Once the chickens were big enough to be sold, growers accepted the best offers and made arrangements with the buyer for the weighing and pick up of the chickens. The initial markets for the chicken were Philadelphia and New York and the chickens were shipped live to these markets. In order to be transported the chickens had to be loaded onto trucks under the cloak of nightfall by what were known as chicken catchers. Evening was the preferred time to load the chickens by these chicken catchers because the chickens were groggy and easily able to be caught. Once the chickens were sold the entire chicken house had to be cleaned of droppings and sawdust, to ensure the health of the next batch. This process of shipping chickens live continued up until the 1950s when processing plants grew more popular.[xiv] Therefore, pre-World War II chickens were raised primarily by local farmers, many of whom were formerly fishermen, were hand fed, and shipped live to urban markets.
emergence of processing plants began in 1938 with founders Senator John Townsend
and his son Preston. At this time
this father and son team set up a hatchery near Swan Creek Orchard in Millsboro,
Delaware. They built chicken houses
on land that they had recently acquired and filled the houses with chickens from
their hatcheries, hiring people to take care of these chickens.
Townsend then eventually set up a processing plant in that same year, as
the demand for chickens increased during World War II.[xv]
1942 ten peninsula processing plants had the ability to slaughter, dress, and
ice pack a combined total of thirty-eight million broilers a year.
The processing plants allowed the chickens to be killed and dressed
before they were shipped to the markets. Processing
plants were a great improvement in the industry because growers no longer had to
worry about loss of profit from chickens losing weight in the transfer to
market. Chickens could now be
killed prior to shipping at their prime weights.
However, the work in these first processing plants was very demanding;
the technology was primitive, and it took a significant amount of manpower to
produce the chickens.[xvi]
the chickens involved slitting the throats, bleeding, and scalding the broilers
to loosen the feathers so they could be picked.
The chickens then were hung by plant workers on an overhead conveyer
belt, and picked with mechanical pickers. Wax
was used to aide in removing the finer feathers on the body of the broiler to
ensure a smooth, well cleaned chicken. Finally
the remaining food was removed from the bird by plant workers with the head and
feet remaining attached. This was
the process used in most processing plants in the 1940’s while the industry
While poultry production continued to grow on Delmarva, chickens still remained a more expensive and less popular meat than cattle or pork. This was mainly because chicken was not as efficiently produced as it is today. Diseases were rampant and disease control was not up to the standards that it is today. Also it was not until the 1940’s that plump chickens were being produced, before this time breeding processes were more primitive and chickens did not have the weight they do today. After the 1940’s chicken were produced more efficiently. Farmers began to learn how to grow more chickens in a faster period of time as a result of technological advances such as mechanical feeders, and developing better modes of disease control.[xviii] In 1940 the average American ate 124 pounds of beef, pork, and mutton annually, while only 14.1 pounds of chicken were consumed annually.[xix] The demand for chickens placed on the industry during World War II would change this.
War II and the Poultry Industry
County sent 2,738 men into the service during World War II out of a population
of 34,530. On the homefront, the
community had to re-adjust itself to the changes occurring as a result of the
war. All resources in the
community, including manpower, were being put into the war effort.[xx]
In Wicomico County and throughout the Delmarva Peninsula much of this war
effort was going into the production of chickens to fill the bellies of the
of the industry by the war was mainly the result of two factors.
Chickens could be moved from birth to the slaughter house at a faster
rate than cattle or pigs. Second, the peninsula has easy access to many
As a result of these factors, broiler chickens became an important part
of the diets of both the armed forces and civilians.
The government at this time rationed red meat because it took more grain
to feed cows than it did to feed poultry. Red meat was not the only thing the
government rationed during the war. Many
common goods such as gasoline, coffee, butter, shoes, and sugar were rationed as
well. The government was trying to ration that which was in short
supply which led to changes in product and packing materials.
A major effort was being put forth into the production of posters to help
encourage wartime frugality.[xxii]
The national government contracted processing plants and employed
advertising to convince poultry growers to supply plants with the chickens.
This was in an effort to help meet the demands.
By 1945 Delmarva poultry processing plants supplied the army with
approximately 1.5 million pounds of poultry weekly.[xxiii]
U.S. broiler production in 1945 was 366 million with an average live
weight of 3.03 pounds.[xxiv]
Delmarva therefore in 1945 accounted for 7% of the nation’s broiler
Witkowski, Terrence H. “World War II Poster Campaigns Preaching Frugality to American Consumers.” Journal of Advertising 32 (2003): 72.
result of all the demand placed on the industry because of the war brought about
great opportunities for Delmarva poultry growers, processors, and hatcheries. This wartime prosperity also laid the foundation for
long-term expansion. This was
because it was during this time that farmers had the drive to learn how to
produce better chickens in a shorter period of time to meet the demand of the
troops overseas while at the same time making a profit.
This wartime demand also created a shift in the base of Delmarva’s
agricultural economy. Once farmers
had invested in a chicken house and made improvements to it during the war to
meet the demand, they continue to use the chicken house infrastructure even
after the war. As long as was
profitable for them, they would continue to use it.
after the war a number of new firms began to creep up on the peninsula that
aimed at modernizing and revolutionizing the poultry industry.
These firms replaced the older poultry processing businesses of the area,
where the grower assumed most of the risk of poultry growing. In
the years between 1945 and 1965 these new firms were able to produce vertically
integrated companies that oversaw the production of chickens as they went from a
hatched chick to a dressed bird ready for sale.[xxvi]
It was also during this time that markets for commercialized feed
companies were created. This created a greater market for corn and soybean and helped
end the canning industry in the area.
automated chicken facilities began to appear in the 1950’s and early 1960’s,
growers had to take on short term financing costs for things such as feed,
medicines, chicks, and other things.
This meant a high risk situation was created for the grower where one bad
batch could make a grower go bankrupt, causing some farmers to be hesitant to
take on the risk of chicken farming. Vertical Integration of poultry helped
remedy this problem.[xxvii]
vertical integration of poultry growing it is the integrators that accept most
of the risk of poultry growing. This
is because in accepting the risk they have greater control over the quality of
the bird as well as the quantity. Ownership
of the breeding stock, chicks, and other inputs allows the integrator to develop
breeds of poultry to meet market needs and have control over production
quantities, quality, and costs. In
vertical integration integrators, such as the Perdue company provide growers
with the chicks and feed usually from integrated owned feed mills.
Integrators will often offer veterinary services, medication, part of the
fuel, and field supervisors who oversee operations as well.
This leaves the grower to provide housing, equipment, labor, water, and
part, if not all, of the fuel and the litter.[xxviii]
into the 1950’s most chicken left the processing plants defeathered, drained
of blood, and sometimes with the head and feet removed but not eviscerated. Processing plants at this time were still simplistic and
labor demands remained low. The
process of evisceration, better cleaning of the carcasses, and the use of chain
supermarkets to sell chickens resulted in the construction of new processing
facilities and a much larger demand for workers.
The chicken was sold in a different form which had consequences on both
the labor demands and processing operations.[xxix]
the 1970’s several other factors helped play a role in pushing the industry
towards greater profitability. Fast
food chicken emerged with the opening of Kentucky Fried Chicken around 1952,
health concerns popped up about the fat content of red meat some time after
1970, and finally marketing campaigns were being developed by poultry companies
to promote brand loyalty in the 1970’s. The
fast food industry and consumers were creating a demand for chicken to leave the
plant cut into pieces as opposed to gutted broilers.
This called for the establishment of production lines following the
removal of the head, feet, and intestines that cut the carcasses into smaller
pieces and in some cases deboning the chicken.[xxx]
new need for labor was created by these new processing facilities because this
process of cutting chicken into pieces could not be mechanized and required more
employees on the line. By the late
1980’s poultry companies became desperate for workers.
With little options poultry companies soon began accepting labor from the
migrant labor force left over from the trucking and canning industries.
poultry industry has today become a major source of employment for immigrants.
Poultry firms on Delmarva employed at least 3,200 immigrants in 1996
compromising between 40 and 60 percent of the work forces in processing plants.[xxxi]
Immigrant labor on the Peninsula is not a recent event however; migrant
laborers have been around a longtime.
workers first appeared in the truck farming days.
They would come each year from the south and head northward as crops
ripened. Upon arrival they received jobs picking the crops and hauling them to
the canneries and other markets present on the shore at the time. During World
War II these migrant workers helped fill the demand for labor. Many of the shore canneries at this time had a labor shortage
and as a result camps for imported labor were created, while existing camps
expanded. During the war three
camps were set up in Wicomico, four in Worcester, and two in Somerset County.
Some of the camps housed German Prisoners of war.[xxxii]
Farmers may have turned to POW’s for additional labor because tire and gas
rationing in 1942 cut the normal supply of migrant laborers by almost 50
some labor was being supplied by POW’s in 1942, most of the labor was obtained
from nearby towns. Only 10 percent
of the labor in Maryland was met by migrant laborers in 1942.[xxxiv]
After the war these migrant workers persevered in both the canning and
1958 some 5,455 migrant workers came into the Maryland area.
They would set up camp along the shore often with living conditions
within the camps being poor. Conditions
in the camps often consisted of framed shacks which were only about 8 by 10 ft
cubicles containing cots, small crock stoves and a light bulb.
The camps were overcrowded with laborers who made them their home during
the peak 4 month harvesting season.[xxxv]
camps began to diminish in the early 1960’s as a result of the implementation
of stricter health and safety requirements aimed at improving the treacherous
living conditions of the workers. The
most important of these new regulations was the adoption in 1960 of strict
health department codes. These
codes placed regulations on housing and sanitation.
Growers and operators under these new regulations had to meet
requirements in water supply, sewage disposal, pest control, and fire safety.[xxxvi]
Violators were subject to between $25 and $100 fines.
Other factors that also helped push migrant camps out were dry weather
conditions, and replacement of workers by automatic picking equipment.[xxxvii]
In time the many of the migrant camps vanished along with the canneries,
although some still remain today. Migrant
workers persistently appeared in the region even after the fall of the canning
industry and continue here today, primarily working in the poultry industry.
workers working in the poultry processing plants of today are more commonly
referred to as immigrants. Migrant
worker is a term applied to the seasonal workers who provide work during the
growing season. Migrant workers are
only temporarily in an area and migrate from the south northward as crops ripen
during the peak growing season. Immigrant
workers are different in that they have migrated to an area and stay there
permanently. Many of the workers in
processing plants are immigrant workers. They work year round in the poultry processing plants.
Therefore, there was a shift as the canning industry disappeared on the
peninsula where some of the migrant workers got year round jobs in the poultry
processing plants and transformed into immigrant workers.
These workers have become an essential part of the poultry industry on
the peninsula providing a labor force that would otherwise be unavailable.
demand for work being met by immigrant populations has created an environment
where laws are not always so carefully considered, thus creating worry for the
citizens of the region. Many
problems are associated with the influx of immigrant workers on the peninsula,
including, driving without a license, drugs, theft, housing issues, and property
identity crisis as a result of identification fraud and multiple identities has
arisen on the peninsula that is linked to immigrants desperate for work in an
industry desperate for workers. In
order to be hired in the chicken plants of Delaware, Eastern Maryland, and
Virginia a valid name is needed. Giving
faulty names has a major impact on tax returns, medical care, pensions, and
criminal cases. Faulty names have
been reported in jail, police barracks, infectious disease reports, and
influx of immigrants has also created a rental market that is competitive as
well as profitable for those in real estate, but this too has created problems.
In many of the cases rented houses are barely habitable and are being
rented for $1,200 to $1,500 a month.[xl]
Overcrowding of these houses has become common.
One place in Georgetown, Delaware experienced difficulty with a propane
leak causing fire fighters to be alarmed when as many as 30 people living in the
three story house came out. Most of
the Guatemalans that have flocked to this Georgetown community work double
shifts leaving work at one plant and starting a shift at another plant.
Their lives revolve around working leaving little time for recreational
activity, so luxurious living accommodations are unnecessary and unwanted.[xli]
Often for communities like Georgetown it has been difficult for long-time residents to become accustomed to these newcomers in their communities. Tensions have grown between natives of these often tradition bound towns and the immigrants who seem unaccustomed to the ways of these communities.[xlii] In the case of Georgetown some of the Guatemalans have confused private homes for public parks and scared local residents when spotted taking pictures in their front lawns. Also private pools have been mistaken for public pools and some residents have come home to find them swimming in their pools.[xliii]
An adjustment has to be made by these poultry dependent communities, where immigrants need to adjust to their new surroundings, and native residents have to be willing let go of past traditions and adjust to ongoing changes within their communities. It is important for communities such as Georgetown to realize the important role that the immigrants play in the local chicken industry. These immigrants are the only ones willing to do the work that goes into producing the chickens and without them the chicken industry would be devastated. Loss of immigrant labor would mean that communities such as Georgetown would lose much of the money the chicken industry brings and circulates throughout their small town. While it may be hard for them to adjust to the influx of immigrants, they have to realize these immigrants are playing a vital role in their community and are just the latest in generations of migrant workers on the shore.
government is having trouble controlling the flow of illegal immigrants to food
and agriculture companies. This is partially due to complaints being received by
civil rights officials and politicians claiming harassment of Mexicans and
others from Central America. These
complaints are the result of an outrage caused by federal raids on meatpacking
plants that have sent many illegal workers home.[xliv]
Delmarva Poultry industry gets credit from federal officials for their
willingness to help combat against the hiring of illegal immigrants. Many of the plants have an open door policy with the INS
where they allow the INS to come in at anytime unannounced to make sure all
their employees have the right working papers and valid identification.
This is a good way for them to counter the hiring of undocumented
workers. The reason that poultry
companies have difficulty with hiring illegal immigrants is because they teeter
on a thin legal line, where the law has created a loophole.
Poultry companies cannot challenge a potential employee that produces
what appears to be legitimate identification.
If they challenge a potential worker that presents a legitimate
identification, they can be liable by asking too much.
Perdue, one of the regions largest employers in 1997, was cited by the
Department of Justice. They were
charged with violating the civil rights of a
worker because they asked her to obtain a new alien registration card as
her old one showed her maiden name. The
company was required to pay a fine of $2,300 and had to pay the worker $2,046. [xlv]
average number of detainees, has tripled to 21,000 a day in the U.S. making it
among the fastest growing portion of the nations prison population. Detainees are illegal immigrants being held by the government
for deportation. In Wicomico
County, detention centers are profiting from this fact with the handling of INS
detainees. The U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service pays $50 a day for a jail bed. A bed costs only $17.89 to provide in Wicomico County,
meaning a $32.11 profit is gained. In
1999 the Wicomico County Detention Center made $2.7 million from the handling of
approximately 84,000 INS detainees, which was equivalent to two thirds of the
money they took in. The detention
center is constantly operating at its full capacity of 655 inmates.
The jails are experiencing an influx after the passing of new immigration
laws by Congress in 1996 requiring foreigners that face deportation to be jailed
while they await verdicts on their fate. Those
being held include immigrants with criminal records and expired visas.[xlvi]
foods was recently indicted in December 2001 on the charges of conspiring to
smuggle illegal immigrants to work at various processing plants in Tennessee,
Virginia, North Carolina, and Arkansas. The
government charged the company and six of its employees with helping immigrants
to get across the Mexican border and aiding them in getting counterfeit work
papers. This case is just one
example of the dependence of poultry companies on foreign workers and has been
used to argue against cracking down on the hiring of illegal immigrants.
This is due to the potential impact it could have on the nations food
industry. Companies such as Tyson
may use immigrants because they can profit by paying low wages and pushing
production lines faster with the threat of sending them back. Also, in many
cases these workers are much more willing to endure the hazardous conditions of
meat processing plants.[xlvii]
stated before efficiency is the key, in modern processing plants, to successful
poultry production. The main goal
shared throughout all processing plants is fast processing because the amount
earned per chicken depends on the volume and speed of the plant and how well its
workers adjust to both. Sixty
million pounds of chicken are processed at plants on the Peninsula every week
and companies in need of workers have added extra shifts and extra work days to
deal with the shortage of workers. All
tasks in a processing plant are balanced to the second with each worker almost
being part of a machine. The
dangers created by such demands and emphasis on efficiency explain the shortages
of workers in such an demanding field of work.[xlviii]
are few places as dangerous as a poultry processing plant.
Poultry workers make less money compared to other manufacturers and are
injured at twice the rate. One out
of six poultry workers suffers from work related injuries or illness every year.
One of the most common injuries today is what is known as “neighbor
cuts,” due to overcrowding and workers unintentionally cutting the person next
to them. The processing plants are also challenging to the body’s
senses. In the slaughterhouses the
temperatures can range between 28°
in a room for packages waiting to be shipped, to a 120°
scalder where feathers are loosened. During
the summer season the plant can get so hot that chickens being hung can
suffocate in less than one minute. Also
adding to the dangers of these plants are the slick conditions created by fat
and blood dripping from the gutted chickens.
Labor unions and government agencies monitor companies efforts to prevent
injury but only about 40% of processing lines on Delmarva have union
It is difficult to say what will become of the issues surrounding the poultry industry and its immigrant labor force. Technology has been unable to find a better alternative to the precision of the human hands and with conditions remaining as they are today in the plants, it is unlikely poultry companies will succeed in finding an alternative labor force. Even the system of migrant workers continued to persevere after their initial source of work in the trucking and canning factories was lost, in the form of immigrant labor. Loss of work in the poultry industry therefore may not be effective in pushing immigrants out of the area. These immigrants may continue to find jobs in other forms of work.
is not to say however that all of the work being done in poultry processing
plants on Delmarva is provided by immigrant workers.
For example, Salisbury’s processing plant run by the Perdue company on
U.S. Route 50 is located in a predominately black neighborhood. The company does not keep written record of the race of its
employees but predominately the workers have been African American.
As stated earlier many of the workers in the processing plants on the
Delmarva Peninsula after World War II shifted from white female workers to black
Many of these workers continue to work in the processing plants on the Peninsula
labor is just one example of how poultry companies have been able to externalize
much of the costs of production. By
externalizing the costs of production poultry companies are able to continue to
provide consumers with cheap food. Consumers
may feel that they benefit from cheap food such as chicken but fail to realize
that they pay in terms of lost tax revenue and increased social and
environmental costs. As communities
on the peninsula like Salisbury work as a periphery providing chicken to serve
metropolises like Philadelphia and New York, they take on the environmental
burden placed by such industries. Not
only do communities on the peninsula take on the environmental burden but the
social burden of cheap labor as well.
the past eight decades the Delmarva Peninsula has gone through a major change
with the continued expansion of the poultry industry over the years. It is true that the birth of the poultry industry is a great
success story for our region, but one that is not without its problems. Whether
Delmarva growers will be able to overcome their obstacles is difficult to
determine, but the future is likely to be filled with immigration and
environmental disputes. Poultry
growers and companies of the future will have to overcome obstacles such as land
development, competition over markets, environmental degradation and labor
issues in order to maintain the legacy of the industry created by Cecile Steel.
County Broiler Production Statistics
of Broilers Produced
Information provided by Maryland Agricultural Statistics Service U.S. Department of Agriculture.
[i] Seybold, Kimberly. “The Delmarva Broiler Industry and WW II: A Case in Wartime Economy.” Delaware History 25 (1993): 200-210.
[ii] Williams, William H. Delmarva’s Chicken Industry: 75 Years of Progress. Delaware: Delmarva Poultry Industry,Inc, 1998.
[iii] Williams, 15.
[iv] Williams, William. Personal interview. 21 April 2004. Sprows, Amanda. Delaware Technical Institute. Tape on File at Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury State University, Salisbury, Md.
[v] Williams, William. Personal interview. 21 April 2004. Sprows, Amanda. Delaware Technical Institute. Tape on File at Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury State University, Salisbury, Md.
[vi] Williams, 10.
[vii] Seybold, Kimberly. “The Delmarva Broiler Industry and WW II: A Case in Wartime Economy.” Delaware History 25 (1993): 200-210
[viii] Williams, William H. Delmarva’s Chicken Industry: 75 Years of Progress. Delaware: Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc, 1998.
[ix] Seybold, Kimberly. “The Delmarva Broiler Industry and WW II: A Case in Wartime Economy.” Delaware History 25 (1993): 200-210
[x] Hartline, Jesse. Interview with Jane King. Email interview. Interview on file at Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury State University, Salisbury, Md.
[xi] Williams, William. Personal interview. 21 April 2004. Sprows, Amanda. Delaware Technical Institute. Tape on File at Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury State University, Salisbury, Md.
[xii] Williams, 21-22.
[xiii] Seybold, Kimberly. “Chicken House Apartments.” Delaware History 25 (199): 253-260.
[xiv] Williams, 28.
[xv] Seybold, Kimberly. “The Delmarva Broiler Industry and WW II: A Case in Wartime Economy.” Delaware History 25 (1993): 200-210
[xvi] Williams, William H. Delmarva’s Chicken Industry: 75 Years of Progress. Delaware: Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc, 1998.
[xvii] Williams, 32-33.
[xviii] Williams, William. Personal interview. 21 April 2004. Sprows, Amanda. Delaware Technical Institute. Tape on File at Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury State University, Salisbury, Md.
[xix] Williams, 20.
[xx] Truitt, Charles J. Historic Salisbury Updated 1662-1982. Maryland: Historical Books Inc., 1982.
[xxi] Williams, 35.
[xxii] Witkowski, Terrence H. “World War II Poster Campaigns Preaching Frugality to American Consumers.” Journal of Advertising 32 (2003): 62-82.
[xxiii] Seybold, Kimberly. “The Delmarva Broiler Industry and WW II: A Case in Wartime Economy.” Delaware History 25 (1993): 200-210
[xxiv] United States Department of Agriculture. National Agricultural Statistics Service. Broiler Industry Structure. Washington, DC: 2002.
[xxv] Williams, William. Personal interview. 21 April 2004. Sprows, Amanda. Delaware Technical Institute. Tape on File at Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury State University, Salisbury, Md.
[xxvi] Miller, Mark J., and Roger Horowitz. “Immigrants in the Delmarva Poultry Processing Industry: The Changing Face of Georgetown, Delaware.” JSRI Research and Publications Occasional Paper Sources. 17 Dec. 2004 <http://www.jsri.msu.edu/Rands/research/ops/oc37.html>
[xxvii] Ollinger, Michael, James McDonald, and Milton Madison. Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Structural Change in U.S. Chicken and Turkey Slaughter. Agricultural Economic Report Number 787.
[xxviii] Ollinger, Michael, James McDonald, and Milton Madison, 11.
[xxix] Miller, Mark J., and Roger Horowitz. “Immigrants in the Delmarva Poultry Processing Industry: The Changing
Face of Georgetown, Delaware.” JSRI Research and Publications Occasional Paper Sources. 17 Dec. 2004. <http://www.jsri.msu.edu/Rands/research/ops/oc37.html>
[xxx] Miller, Mark J., and Roger Horowitz. “Immigrants in the Delmarva Poultry Processing Industry: The Changing
Face of Georgetown, Delaware.” JSRI Research and Publications Occasional Paper Sources. 17 Dec. 2004 <http://www.jsri.msu.edu/Rands/research/ops/oc37.html>
[xxxi] Miller, Mark J., and Roger Horowitz. “Immigrants in the Delmarva Poultry Processing Industry: The Changing
Face of Georgetown, Delaware.” JSRI Research and Publications Occasional Paper Sources. 17 Dec. 2004 <http://www.jsri.msu.edu/Rands/research/ops/oc37.html>
[xxxii] Truitt, Charles J. Historic Salisbury Updated 1662-1982. Maryland: Historical Books Inc., 1982.
[xxxiii] “Farmers Told to Seek Labor.” Salisbury Times 26 May 1942, evening ed.: 1.
[xxxiv] “Nearby Towns Supply Labor for Farmers.” Salisbury Times 25 May 1942: 8.
[xxxv] Shern, Laurence. “Maryland’s Migrants Hit Hard by Bad Weather.” The Washington Post 16 Aug. 1959.
[xxxvi] Clopton, Willard. “The Pickin’s Are Easier for Migratory Workers.” The Washington Post 19 July 1964.
[xxxvii] Clopton, Willard. “The Pickin’s Are Easier for Migratory Workers.” The Washington Post 19 July 1964.
[xxxviii] Miller, Mark J., and Roger Horowitz. “Immigrants in the Delmarva Poultry Processing Industry: The Changing Face of Georgetown, Delaware.” JSRI Research and Publications Occasional Paper Sources. 17 Dec. 2004 <http://www.jsri.msu.edu/Rands/research/ops/oc37.html>
[xxxix] Escobar, Gabriel. “Workers Answer to Multiple Names, Culture Fraud Flourishes in Delmarva Chicken Town.” The Washington Post 30 Nov. 1999, A01.
[xl] Escobar, Gabriel. “Immigration Transforms a Community, Influx of Latino Workers Creates Culture Clash in Delaware Town.” The Washington Post 29 Nov. 1999, A01.
[xli] Escobar, Gabriel. “Immigration Transforms a Community, Influx of Latino Workers Creates Culture Clash in Delaware Town.” The Washington Post 29 Nov. 1999, A01.
[xlii] Miller, Mark J., and Roger Horowitz. “Immigrants in the Delmarva Poultry Processing Industry: The Changing Face of Georgetown, Delaware.” JSRI Research and Publications Occasional Paper Sources. 17 Dec. 2004 <http://www.jsri.msu.edu/Rands/research/ops/oc37.html>
[xliii] Escobar, A01.
[xliv] Barboza, David. “Meatpackers’ Profits Hinge on Pool of Immigrant Labor.” The New York Times 21 Dec. 2001, late ed.:A26.
[xlv] Escobar, Gabriel. “Workers Answer to Multiple Names, Culture Fraud Flourishes in Delmarva Chicken Town.” The Washington Post 30 Nov. 1999, A01.
[xlvi] Montgomery, Lori. “Rural Jails INS Detainees.” The Washington Post 24 Nov., A01.
[xlvii] Barboza, David. “Meatpackers’ Profits Hinge on Pool of Immigrant Labor.” The New York Times 21 Dec. 2001, late ed.:A26.
[xlviii] Sun, Lena H., and Gabriel Escobar. “On Chickens Front Line; High Volume and Repetition Test Workers Endurance.” The Washington Post 28 Nov. 1999, A01.
[xlix] Sun, Lena H., and Gabriel Escobar. “On Chickens Front Line; High Volume and Repetition Test Workers Endurance.” The Washington Post 28 Nov. 1999, A01.
[l] Williams, William. Personal interview. 21 April 2004. Sprows, Amanda. Delaware Technical Institute. Tape on File at Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture, Salisbury State University, Salisbury, Md.