) -- In a game of chicken,

Tyson Foods

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is the winner.

The meat-maker saw third-quarter profit soar, boosted by solid chicken sales, which improved due to higher average prices and structural changes.

During the quarter, the company earned $134 million, or 35 cents a share, compared with $9 million, or 3 cents, in the year-ago period.

Earnings from continuing operations were $127 million, or 33 cents a share, topping analysts' forecast of 22 cents.

Last year's period was weighed down by high cost of grain to feed the chickens, which rose $140 million in that quarter. In comparison, grain costs fell $91 million in the current quarter.

Sales dipped 3% to $6.66 billion from $6.85 billion, hurt by declines in beef and pork sales.

The company's chicken segment made up 36.3% of its third-quarter sales, with beef at 41% and pork 12.6%.

But despite the good news in chicken, management expects the fourth quarter will remain challenging due to a weak demand for meat. The company's lean inventory, however, is expected to stave off steep declines.


Smithfield Foods


will report its first-quarter earnings on Sept. 8.

--Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York.

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