Tyson Foods, the US meat giant, today (4 February) booked increasing first-quarter earnings on the back of higher profits from its poultry and pork divisions.

The company posted net income of US$294m for the three months to 1 January, up sharply from $160m a year earlier. Sales increased 14.8% to $7.6bn.

Operating income from Tyson’s chicken unit more than doubled – rising from $78m to $181m. The group’s pork business had a similar increase; operating income was up from $62m a year ago to $177m.

However, Tyson’s beef business, which like the poultry and pork divisions saw sales rise, posted a fall in operating income, dipping from $119m to $116m.

Nevertheless, president and CEO Donnie Smith was upbeat about Tyson’s performance.

“Tyson produced record sales and earnings for the fiscal first quarter of 2011,” said Smith. “The chicken, beef and pork segments produced operating income in or above their normalised ranges.”

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“Our performance is due to on-going, sustainable operational improvements across all four segments,” Smith said. “Our view of 2011 is basically the same as it was a few months ago. Beef and pork are off to a great start, and their combined results in 2011 should be similar to 2010. Since 2008, our chicken segment has produced approximately $600m in performance improvements, with nearly all of that amount coming from operational efficiencies. There are more opportunities to realise, which will contribute to chicken’s profitability in the remaining quarters of the fiscal year.”

Smith added: “Because of the structural changes we’ve made throughout our businesses, we are competing effectively, even within the volatile markets we’re facing. While 2011 will have its challenges, it has the potential to be comparable to 2010.”