Sanderson Farms today (24 February) claimed a "solid" start to its financial year, with higher first-quarter sales and profits, although earnings missed analyst forecasts.

The US poultry processor booked net income of US$66.5m for the three months to 31 January, up sharply from $28.9m a year earlier.

Earnings per share stood at $2.82. However, a poll from Thomson Reuters showed analysts expected EPS of $2.99.

Sanderson's bottom line was boosted by a halving in interest costs but its operating income was still more than twice higher than the previous year, reaching $103.1m.

Net sales increased 14.1% to $667.4m, helped by higher poultry market prices.

"Retail grocery store demand for chicken has remained strong, and it appears food service demand may be benefiting from lower priced gasoline," chairman and CEO Joe Sanderson Jr said.

Sanderson Jr production at its new site in Texas had started on 9 February. Sanderson is conducting due diligence on locations for another plant in North Carolina and "hopes to complete that process soon", he added.

Shares in the company were down 1.72% at $81.04 at 10:27 ET.