Hormel Foods Corp. announced its Board of Directors has authorized a two-for-one split of the company’s common stock. This would be the first split in 10 years and the 9th in company history.

“We are excited to announce this proposed two-for-one stock split following a decade of strong performance,” said Jeffrey M. Ettinger, chairman of the board, president and CEO. “This decision acknowledges our track record of providing our shareholders solid long-term returns and demonstrates our confidence that we will continue to grow our sales and earnings in the future. We anticipate this will also put our stock price in a more attractive trading range for a number of individual investors.”

Stockholder approval of the stock split is required during the company’s Annual Meeting being held on Monday, Jan. 31, 2011. Under the proposal, the number of authorized shares of voting common stock would increase from 400 million to 800 million.

The Board of Directors established Jan. 31, 2011, as the record date for stockholders who will be entitled to receive the split shares. One additional share of common stock will be issued to stockholders around Feb. 14, 2011, for each share of common stock they hold on the record date.

Source: Hormel Foods Corp.

Sanderson Farms reports higher sales for Q4, fiscal year

Sanderson Farms Inc. reported results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended October 31, 2010. Net sales for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2010 were $529.1 million compared with $469.0 million for the same period a year ago. For the quarter, the company reported net income of $47.8 million, or $2.08 per share, compared with $19.8 million, or $0.95 per share for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009.

Net sales for fiscal 2010 were $1.9 billion compared with $1.8 billion for fiscal 2009. Net income for the year totaled $134.8 million, or $6.07 per share, compared with $82.3 million, or $3.94 per share, for last year.

"The fourth quarter of fiscal 2010 marked a strong finish to a successful year for Sanderson Farms," said Joe F. Sanderson, Jr., chairman and CEO of Sanderson Farms. "We had record annual sales of $1.9 billion, a 7.6 percent increase over fiscal 2009. We also rewarded our shareholders with record net income of $134.8 million, or $6.07 per share. These results reflect the solid execution of our growth strategy and solid performance in our operations. For the year we processed 2.57 billion pounds of dressed poultry, another record, compared with 2.45 billion pounds in fiscal 2009."

According to Sanderson, market prices for poultry products improved in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2010 compared with prices a year ago. As measured by a simple average of the Georgia dock price for whole chickens, prices were higher by approximately 3.2 percent in the company's fourth fiscal quarter compared with the same period in fiscal 2009, but were lower by 1.3 percent for the fiscal year compared with the prior year. While boneless breast meat prices have softened since Labor Day, they averaged 26.0 percent higher in the fourth quarter than the prior-year period. For fiscal 2010, boneless prices were 12.3 percent higher when compared with fiscal 2009. Jumbo wing prices averaged $1.27 per pound during the fiscal year, down 3.2 percent from the average of $1.32 per pound for fiscal 2009. The average market price for bulk leg quarters increased approximately 2.3 percent for the quarter, but decreased approximately 4.2 percent for fiscal 2010. Prices paid for corn and soybean meal, the company's primary feed ingredients, increased 9.1 percent and decreased 17.0 percent, respectively, compared with the fourth quarter a year ago. For the year, total feed costs in flocks sold were 3.6 percent lower than fiscal 2009.

"Another important milestone for Sanderson Farms in fiscal 2010 was the completion of our new Kinston, North Carolina, poultry complex," Sanderson continued. "This project was completed on time and on budget, and we will begin processing chickens in Kinston in January. We look forward to the new marketing opportunities the Kinston plant will provide for Sanderson Farms as we embark on our next phase of growth in fiscal 2011.

"In addition to the Kinston facility, we will continue work during fiscal 2011 developing the second North Carolina complex. Together, the two North Carolina facilities will support our growth strategy with approximately 30 percent more processing capacity, and will further enhance our ability to drive revenue and earnings for our shareholders."

Sanderson concluded, "We are pleased that our strong balance sheet and financial performance have put us in the position to continue to grow our company. As of October 31, 2010, our balance sheet reflected $841.6 million in assets, stockholders' equity of $645.7 million and net working capital of $238.2 million. Our total long-term debt at year-end was $62.1 million. We believe a strong balance sheet is an important advantage in today's economic environment and provides us with the financial strength to support our growth strategy. We deeply appreciate the hard work and dedication to excellence of everyone associated with our company, including our employees and growers."

Source: Sanderson Farms Inc.

Scientists identify where FMD begins to infect cattle

Scientists have identified where the virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) begins its infection in cattle, which may lead to the development of new vaccines, according to a new report by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Researchers found that after just six hours of exposure to the FMD virus through the cow’s nasal passages, the virus selectively infects epithelial cells in the nasopharynx, a specific region of the cow’s throat.

The discovery was made by scientists with the Agricultural Research Service Foreign Animal Disease Research Unit at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center at Orient Point, N.Y.

The research was published in the November issue of Veterinary Pathology and featured on the cover of that issue. For more information, visit vet.sagepub.com/content/47/6/1048.abstract.

Source: American Meat Institute

O'Charley's closes 16 locations

O'Charley's, a Nashville-based restaurant chain, said Monday it has closed 16 underperforming locations, reports the Kansas City Star. The company said that of the 16 underperforming restaurants, 11 were O'Charley's locations, and 5 were from its Ninety Nine restaurant group.

About 750 to 800 employees were affected by the closings, including about 100 working at the area locations, said Larry Hyatt, the company's chief financial officer. In light of the timing of the decision, employees were offered severance packages that "were more generous than what we have previously offered," Hyatt said.

Source: Kansas City Star

Chinese processor to build pork plant, R&D center

Zhongpin Inc., a leading meat and food processing company in the People's Republic of China, today announced that it would build a new production, research & development, test, and training complex in its home city of Changge in Henan province of China.

The new facility will add 100,000 metric tons of capacity for prepared pork products, including Chinese-style, western-style, half-cooked, and easy-to-cook pork products. Adjacent to the production facility will be a new center for advanced research & development, test, training, and other support functions.

Xianfu Zhu, chairman and CEO of Zhongpin, said, "This expansion will add capacity for our higher-margin downstream products and will serve our central China market and adjacent markets. It will substantially enhance our R&D and further support our expanding market share in the growth regions of China. This new facility proves that we remain committed to doing everything possible -- using the most advanced technologies and processes -- to continue delivering new product innovations that will be desired by China's citizens, delivering food at the highest standards of product quality and safety to every customer, and delivering strong long-term returns to our shareholders."

Zhongpin plans to invest $58.5 million on the construction, excluding the land use rights that Zhongpin already owns. More than 80% of the production equipment will be internationally sourced. Zhongpin consistently selects the best and most advanced equipment, processes, and integrated information systems for its plants. The company's advanced cold-chain logistics system will support the expanding capacity. The payback period for the project is expected to be about 5.75 years.

Construction for the first phase of 50,000 metric tons for prepared pork products is scheduled to start in the first quarter 2011 and be completed by the third quarter 2011, and the second phase, also with an annual capacity of 50,000 metric tons for prepared pork products, is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter 2012. The R&D, test, and training center is also expected to open by the fourth quarter 2012.

Source: Zhongpin Inc.