US meat processor Tyson Foods has reported higher quarterly earnings and said domestic demand for beef remained strong despite the discovery of a BSE case in the US in December.

The company posted net income of US$57m, or 16 cents per share, for the first quarter to 27 December, compared to $39m, or 11 cents per share, a year earlier.

First-quarter sales were US$6.5bn, compared to $5.8bn last year. Operating income was $161m compared to $145m in the same quarter last year.

“The momentum of the second half of fiscal 2003 has carried over into the new year and we’re off to a strong start. We continue to show improvements in pricing, operational efficiencies and improving our mix of value-added products. We were adversely affected by the discovery of a cow with BSE, but our people managed the situation very well. Domestic demand for beef remains strong and we are optimistic about the prospects for our overall business this year,” said chairman and CEO John Tyson.

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