Third-quarter results from Sanderson Farms (NASDAQ:SAFM) caused more than their fair share of clucking in the henhouse, with disappointing results from this poultry producer leading to a 10% plucking in Tuesday's trading. OK, enough with the chicken metaphors, I promise.

Sales were down 10% in the quarter as poultry sales declined 9%. This decline was led by an 11% drop in average pricing, offset partially by an increase of slightly more than 2% in poultry pounds sold. The former is really no surprise -- chicken is a commodity item, and prices have dropped from last year's levels for every producer. That said, Sanderson Farms seems to have been hit worse than others -- Gold Kist (NASDAQ:GKIS), Tyson (NYSE:TSN), and Pilgrim'sPride (NYSE:PPC) all managed better quarterly sales performance with either higher volume increases and/or better pricing.

Margins were also down for the quarter. Whether one opts to exclude start-up expenses from the company's new operations in Georgia or not, the operating margin fell from last year's level. But on a more positive note, even with the year-on-year decline, Sanderson Farms is still the most profitable chicken producer that I know of in the market.

I'm not wildly enamored with a commodity business like chicken, but Sanderson Farms still captures my attention. A high-teens return on assets is great for almost any company, let alone one in this line of business, and companies with industry-leading margins are, by definition, somewhat scarce.

As you might imagine from the comparatively superior margins and returns, Sanderson Farms is efficient at what it does, and in this business, efficient farming and processing means quite a lot. Though there are some worries about future chicken gluts, slaughter capacity isn't increasing that much, export markets are still hot, and more and more fast food joints are increasing their chicken items on the menu.

Sanderson could do a few things better -- more export sales might be nice -- but it does a fine job overall. Given today's somewhat extreme haircut on the stock price, I think I'm going to be keeping a closer eye on this company and its stock. After all, investing in a well-run company with a good dividend yield is not the worst idea I've heard this week.

For more fowlish Takes:

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).