Sussex County Delaware

Birthplace of the
Broiler Industry
A look at the poultry industry in Sussex County Delaware

Sussex County's Poultry Industry ...

Chicken Houses in Sussex County, Delaware

Photo: Chicken houses in Sussex County Delaware.

Sussex County Delaware, the birthplace of the broiler chicken industry, produces more chickens than any other county in the United States and is home to the headquarters of 3 of the Top 20 broiler producing companies in the country.

The industry is said to have begun in 1923 in Ocean View, when Mrs. Wilmer Steele started a brood of 500 chicks in connection with her existing egg laying business.

The next year, Mrs. Steele raised 1,000 chickens. By 1926, the Steeles were growing approximately 10,000 broilers and by 1928 were up to 25,000 chickens.

News of the Steele's broiler success spread quickly and the market for chicken grew as housewives and restaurant and hotel owners discovered that these broilers could be fried, broiled and roasted as well as stewed.

Today, Sussex County produces more than 200 million chickens a year, or nearly twice the number of the second largest county, Cullman County in Alabama.

The three Sussex companies in the Top 20 broiler producers in the country are Townsends Inc. (10th) in Millsboro, Allen Family Foods (15th) in Seaford, and Mountaire Farms of Delmarva (19th) in Selbyville. Just across the county line in Salisbury, Md., is Perdue Farms, the 2nd largest broiler producer in the U.S.

In the latest statistics available, broilers accounted for 69.5 percent of Delaware's cash farm income with most of that income coming from Sussex County growers.

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