It seems like every week we get new bad news on the spread of bird flu around the world, and I'd imagine that every new article or television bit has the CEOs of poultry companies wincing.
Even though avian flu cannot be transmitted through properly cooked meat, people in affected areas are taking the "panic first, think later" approach and avoiding chicken. That, in turn, has hurt foreign demand and led to lower prices for the suppliers. Take the case of leg quarters (the most commonly exported chicken part). Prices here were down 11% for Sanderson, and current prices seem to be almost half of those seen on average in the recently completed quarter.
So it certainly wasn't a great quarter for Sanderson. Sales fell 5%, primarily because of the fact that the company saw a nearly 10% overall drop in average meat selling prices. On the flip side, feed prices were higher, and the company also saw higher energy, transportation, and packaging costs. So while $3 million in unrecovered hurricane losses made the operating income figure look worse, the company lost money this quarter, hurricane or not.
Even though the outlook for the meat folks isn't going to turn around overnight, it's times like these that get me interested. After all, if you can boldly pitch your tent in the Badlands while others run for the hills, you can find bargains. Of course, pick the wrong place to pitch your tent, and they'll be laughing at your bleached bones.
Anyways, the poultry world saw a terrible 2002 and survived. What's more, management here seems pretty confident that American producers aren't setting themselves up for overcapacity in the near future. So I've got to say that Sanderson looks pretty enticing. I'm not sure how long the recovery will take, but at today's prices, value-minded Fools might well be willing to wait.
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).
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