One of the highest concentrations of chicken production in the United States is on the Delmarva Peninsula, an area along the Chesapeake Bay that encompasses most of Delaware, Maryland’s Eastern Shore and a spit of eastern Virginia.
The peninsula is the birthplace of modern American chicken production, and as the country’s appetite for chicken grows, so does the industry. Americans eat three times more chicken now than they did 50 years ago. In 2017, the region produced more than 600 million chickens, more than double the tally from the 1960s. Many of the region’s chicken houses can hold up to 40,000 birds at a time, and the operations emit climate-warming gases and ammonia.
As more and more of these houses are built, many residents are left wondering how the industry is affecting their health.