SPRINGDALE, Ark. — Volatile input markets combined with low market prices for chicken caused Tyson Foods Inc.’s earnings to slip during the third quarter of fiscal 2010. Net income in the quarter ended July 2 was $196 million, equal to 51c per share on the common stock, down 21% from income of $248 million, or 65c per share, in the same period a year ago.

Sales for the quarter increased 11% to a record $8,247 million.

“We are pleased that our overall performance in the fiscal third quarter was about what we expected it to be,” said Donnie Smith, president and chief executive officer. “The Pork segment’s returns were above the new normalized range; the Beef segment was near the upper end of its range; and our Prepared Foods segment was just under its range.

“We feel good about our performance in the Chicken segment while experiencing extremely volatile input costs and market prices at or near historical lows. The fact that we remained profitable in such a difficult environment demonstrates how much our chicken business has improved in the past three years. There appears to be improvement in market fundamentals on the horizon, but the next few months will be very challenging, and it is likely our Chicken segment will experience a loss in the fiscal fourth quarter.”

During the third quarter the Chicken segments operating income declined to $28 million from $186 million during the same period of the previous year. Sales were $2,800 million during the quarter, up 11% from $2,527 million.
Tyson Foods said it does not expect significant change in the fundamentals of its Beef, Pork and Prepared Foods business units during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011.

“My outlook for Tyson Foods remains positive,” Smith said. “Our diversified business model, including our outstanding Beef and Pork segments, along with our strong balance sheet, will allow us to continue serving our customers through insights and innovations as we help them succeed in this economic environment, reinvesting in our business and buying back stock.”

For the first nine months of fiscal 2011, Tyson net income was $653 million, or $1.71 per share, up 15 percent from $567 million, or $1.49 per share, in the first nine months of fiscal 2010. Sales during the period were $23,682 million, up 13 percent from $20,989 million during the first nine months of fiscal 2010.