Food manufacturing behemoth ConAgra Foods (NYSE:CAG) reported second-quarter results before the market opened Thursday, checking in with earnings per share of $0.31 -- a figure that compares unfavorably with the $0.46 the company delivered this time last year. True, this year's Q2 earnings reflect the impact of a pair of special items charges. But even if you're feeling generous during this holiday season and back out those costs, ConAgra's earnings still look comparatively paltry, weighing in at just $0.38 per stub.

One big culprit was the firm's retail products division, which represents a majority (59%) of ConAgra's revenue pie. Sales there fell to $2.3 billion from $2.5 billion, while the unit's operating profit declined 16.6%, owing in part to a recall of ready-to-eat lunch kits. That snafu caused the company to, um, eat roughly $8 million that would have otherwise fattened the bottom line.

To his credit, ConAgra CEO Gary Rodkin was candid in assessing his firm's difficulties, acknowledging in the earnings announcement that the "current quarter profit shortfall indicates that our fundamentals need to be much stronger. Strengthening the fundamentals will be aggressively pursued but will take a fair amount of time ..."

CEOs are generally an optimistic bunch, however, and Rodkin continued by adding that, fundamental troubles aside, he also perceives "opportunities for short-term improvement through better execution."

That'd be nice, but ConAgra's no-doubt weary investors would be well justified to respond to Rodkin's short-term suggestion by asking: How soon is now?

The company's stock is off some 27% on the year, after all, and the thing has been a long-haul underachiever, too. Indeed, for the 10-year period that ended with November, the company's stock has appreciated by just 4.2% annually, a figure that lags the S&P 500 by more than five percentage points over that stretch.

With that in mind -- and despite a trailing-12-month price-to-earnings ratio that falls significantly below those of competitors like H.J. Heinz (NYSE:HNZ), Sara Lee (NYSE:SLE), Hormel Foods (NYSE:HRL), and Kraft Foods (NYSE:KFT) -- ConAgra still looks like a bad bet to me.

Some stocks are cheap for a good reason, after all, and right now, I'd count ConAgra among them.

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Shannon Zimmerman is the lead analyst for the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service and doesn't own any of the company's mentioned. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.