It's nothing to cluck about! Poultry business is big business in Shelby County

Crowds, community support of Poultry Festival are a reflection of the importance of poultry to Shelby County

Why have a festival focused on that fine feathered fowl — the chicken?

For Center and Shelby County, the answer each year is simple, according to Lane Dunn, Shelby County Extension Agent-Agriculture.

“The poultry industry is the lifeblood of Shelby County,” he said. “It generates more money here than anything else.”

Dunn said while Shelby County has a diverse agricultural economy, which includes cattle, it is still poultry which provides more jobs and generates more revenue than any other sector.

According to state statistics, the poultry industry generates an estimated $249 million to the local economy in Shelby County, he said.

“We're usually in the top 10 counties in Texas for poultry production with Shelby and Nacogdoches counties always among the tops,” he said.

“We're diverse, but poultry is the mainstay, and it fits well with a lot of other commodities like cattle and hay production,” he said. While Shelby County's big city counterparts may like to think their way of living is the norm, statewide, farming and ranching are big.
“In Texas, one out of every seven jobs is attributed to agriculture,” Dunn said. “If you like to eat and sleep, or live in a house with a roof over your head, you're impacted by agriculture.”

While he did not have an exact count on the number of poultry farms in Shelby County, he said figures he has seen point to about 180 such operations.

“And as the years go by, they're getting bigger and bigger,” Dunn said. “Some of those newer poultry houses hold up to 20,000 chickens.”

In addition to raising chickens, the county sees a major economic impact with processors like Tyson and Pilgrim's Pride, he said. The future looks bright.

“We're seeing an acceleration of growth in the poultry industry,” Dunn said.

Photo courtesy Ashley Chandler