A Wall Street upgrade of Tyson Foods Inc. shares on Thursday reflects investor appetite for U.S. meat producers, with the industry looking to capitalize on lower feed-grain costs and stronger prices.

Meat producers are enjoying cheaper feed-grain prices and lower supplies, after chewing through expensive grains purchased during the 2008 commodities boom and following yearlong production cuts in chicken and pork, MarketWatch reports.

On Thursday, Tyson was raised to "outperform" from "neutral" at Credit Suisse. "While we clearly missed the bottom on Tyson stock, it is still underowned, underloved and in the early stages of a cyclical rebound in protein processing," analyst Robert Moskow wrote in a note.

In the past three months, meat producers have outpaced the 7 percent gain by the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the 5 percent gain by the S&P 500 Index. Tyson Foods shares are up 12%, while pork producer Smithfield Food Inc. is up 19%. Chicken supplier Sanderson Farms Inc. is 21% higher in the same three-month period.

Smithfield, which has reported four straight money-losing quarters, said it expects to turn a profit by spring 2010. The world's No. 1 pork producer has said profit will be bolstered by its grocery packaged-meats business, cost cuts and higher hog prices. Lean-hog prices have been climbing since August as producers work through supplies.

Source: MarketWatch

Russia to accept poultry imports until Jan. 19

Russia will accept U.S. poultry meat cleared by customs before Jan. 19, the day when a U.S. delegation is expected in Moscow for talks on a new ban, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said on Thursday.

Zubkov also said Russia was looking for alternative suppliers in Latin America, Europe and the Middle East. Russia from Jan. 1 banned poultry meat treated with chlorine, which put at risk shipments from top supplier, the United States.

Source: Reuters

ConAgra donates $100,000 for Haiti earthquake relief

ConAgra Foods Foundation announced its pledge of an additional $100,000 to the International Red Cross Relief Fund to support emergency relief aid to Haiti following the 7.0-magnitude quake that hit the area on Tuesday, Jan. 12.

"The first 48 hours are critical in a disaster, and that's why we have chosen, for years, to invest in both the domestic and international relief funds with the Red Cross," explained Kori Reed, executive director, ConAgra Foods Foundation. "We then monitor other needs as the aftermath of the disaster unfolds. A well-intentioned donation of food or clothing at the wrong time and without the appropriate infrastructure to get the items to the victims can add to the chaos."

In 1998, the ConAgra Foods Foundation became a founding member of the American Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program, and, in 2005, it pledged an additional $1 million to the cause, to be contributed over five years. This domestic-focused disaster relief fund enables the Red Cross to tap into critical resources and respond immediately to emergency situations, such as those brought about by Hurricane Katrina and, more recently, the string of tornadoes that struck Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Iowa in 2008.

In 2008, following the disasters in Myanmar and China, the ConAgra Foods Foundation extended its support to the Red Cross International Relief Fund to effectively reach people in disaster-ravaged areas where aid is needed most as quickly as possible.

"We partner with leading nonprofit organizations that have the experience, infrastructure and support to get aid quickly to the people who need it most," continued Reed. "In the true spirit of collaboration, it does take a coordinated humanitarian effort to ensure people have even the basic essentials in times of need."

Source: ConAgra Foods