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Chicken price surge lifts profit at No. 3 U.S. poultry producer

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Demand for chicken pushing up prices at grocery stores and boosts profit for producer.

By Kim Chipman and Michael Hirtzer

America’s relentless demand for chicken dinners is pushing up prices at the grocery store and boosting profit at the third-largest U.S. poultry producer.

Sanderson Farms Inc. posted fiscal third-quarter earnings and net sales that exceeded analyst estimates as the average market price for chicken breast tenders and jumbo wings more than doubled. Sales rose to $1.35 billion from $956.5 million a year earlier.

The 74-year-old company, which is preparing to sell itself and go private, continues to benefit from the pandemic-era trend of more consumers dining at home. Sanderson also said demand from its food service customers is improving. The gains helped offset a 46% surge in chicken feed costs due to near-decade high prices for corn and soy meal. 

“Demand for the products we sell to retail grocery store customers remained strong,” Chief Executive Officer Joe Sanderson said in a statement Thursday. 

The poultry processor said it expects supplies of corn and soybeans it uses for chicken feed to remain tight and prices for both commodities to stay elevated “at least for the short term.”

The company has agreed to be bought by agriculture giant Cargill Inc. and Continental Grain Co. for $4.53 billion. The deal would expand on Sanderson’s current position as the third-biggest U.S. chicken producer by creating a venture with about 15% market share. 

The proposed deal values Sanderson at $203 a share, a 30% premium over the share price of $155.74 on June 18, the last full trading day prior to media speculation about the potential sale. The stock rose 0.9% in before regular trading in New York on Thursday, after closing Wednesday at $193.62. 

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