US poultry processor Pilgrim’s Pride has reported higher quarterly net earnings, boosted by the integration of ConAgra’s chicken division and favourable market conditions.

The company said its net income was US$48.5m, or 73 cents per share, for the first fiscal quarter ended 1 January 2005, compared with net income of $10.3m, or 20 cents per share, in the first quarter of fiscal 2004.

The company also reported net sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2005 of $1.37bn compared with net sales of $1.04bn for the same period last year.

“Our record performance in the first fiscal quarter reflects both the successful integration of the November 2003 ConAgra chicken division acquisition and strong performance in our prepared foods and fresh chicken businesses, lower feed ingredient costs, rising exports and strong demand in the foodservice sector,” said O.B. Goolsby, president and chief executive officer.

“The outlook for sustained profitability in our chicken business is encouraging. We anticipate further growth in our chicken business as we respond to favourable consumer trends and demand for high-quality, convenient, meat proteins that will enable us to continue delivering value to our customers and shareholders,” Goolsby added.