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Chicken Goes Cha-Ching for Tyson

Tyson Foods (NYSE: TSN  ) , the world's premier processor and marketer of beef, chicken, and pork, just reported a stellar fiscal third quarter. So how does a protein supplier do so well at a time when feed costs are rising? It all boils down to price increases and more overseas demand.

Tyson earned $0.31 per share, versus a loss of $0.15 in the prior year's period, and blew away the analysts' consensus of $0.25. In doing so, the company grew revenues and expanded operating margins in each of its segments.

The company reported revenue growth of 9%, even as sales volume declined 4% because of plant sales and closures. But price increases of 13.5% more than made up for the drop, as did cost-cutting efforts that look to be paying off early and should ultimately save the company about $200 million a year.

Chicken led all price gainers, with an 18.8% increase, while beef prices rose 13%. It's been relatively easy for Tyson to push price increases through to its customers, who in turn have pushed through food inflation to consumers.

Export sales rose 31%, driven by sales of chicken and pork to China and Asia. This Fool speculates that as China industrializes, agricultural production should decline and demand for American-sourced proteins should rise. That's not to mention the effects of population growth!

Meanwhile, industry speculation continues that overseas demand for American beef should increasingly benefit from the removal of international import restrictions. Tyson also expects to see a significant benefit from the sale of its antibiotic-free meats in the periods to come.

Management's confidence led it to raise its fiscal 2007 EPS guidance to a range $0.82 to $0.92 per share. So this Fool sees continued good times ahead for meat eaters and Tyson alike.

For more protein-based Foolishness:

Fool contributor Markos Kaminis has no ownership interest in any of the companies discussed here, but he is not a vegetarian. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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