The DelMarVa peninsula contains one of the largest contiguous masses of highly productive farmland on the east coast. For three hundred years it has been a mainstay of the regional economy and today more than half of the area's total land area remains in farming. As development pressure reaches across the Bay Bridge and south from Wilmington, Delaware, in the form of suburban sprawl, it meets extremely weak farmland protection mechanisms and minimally funded easement purchase programs.
Since the 1930s and 1940s, the poultry industry has become one of the most efficient producers of protein for human consumption. It expanded rapidly during World War II because of the shortage of beef and pork, which require a much longer time to develop; only seven weeks are required to produce a broiler and five months to produce a laying hen. More recently, in response to public concern over dietary fat, poultry has again become a popular substitute for beef and pork. As a result of modern technological development, many poultry houses now provide excellent environmental control, and the management and marketing of the birds are finely regulated.
Advances in the broiler industry has been spectacular. The industry started on a commercial scale on the Delmarva (Delaware-Maryland-Virginia) Peninsula and then spread farther south and southwest. By the early 1990s the industry was producing approximately 5.9 billion broilers a year, most of them in the southern United States, with an efficiency such that one unit weight of broiler was being produced with fewer than two unit weights of feed. Nearly all broilers are now the offspring of white Plymouth Rock females and dominant white Cornish males.