US poultry processor Pilgrim's Pride has posted a sharp rise in quarterly earnings, helped by favourable market conditions.

The company reported net income of US$10.3m, or 20 cents per share, for the first fiscal quarter to 3 January, compared with net income of $2.8m, or 7 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Pilgrim's Pride also reported record net sales for the first quarter of $1.0bn, compared with net sales of $627.4m for the same period last year.

"Our very successful first quarter performance reflects an improvement in the pricing environment in the US for chicken and our rapid progress integrating the chicken division we acquired from ConAgra Foods in late November 2003," said president and chief operating officer O.B. Goolsby.