US meat products maker Hormel Foods has said its fourth-quarter earnings slid 1%, but demand for turkey products remained strong.

The company reported net earnings of US$69.8m, or 50 cents per share, for the fourth quarter to 30 October, compared to earnings of $70.4m, or 50 cents per share, for the year-ago period. Sales totalled $1.3bn, up from $1.2bn last year. The company's accounting cycle resulted in a 14-week fourth quarter in fiscal 2004 and a 13-week fourth quarter in fiscal 2003.

"Our strong fourth quarter was supported by very good demand for our value-added pork and turkey products," said Joel Johnson, chairman of the board and chief executive officer. "As we noted in the 11 November earnings pre-announcement, our Jennie-O Turkey Store business delivered better-than-expected results driven by outstanding demand for turkey products and excellent market conditions. We continue to see this strength into the first quarter of fiscal 2005, which gives us a great start to the New Year."

The company said that after assessing industry factors, business plans and prospects, it has issued earnings guidance for the first quarter of between 40 and 46 cents per share, versus 37 cents in fiscal 2004.