GREELEY, COLO. – Pilgrim's Pride Corp. profits surged in the third quarter ended Sept. 29, thanks to cost-cutting measures and higher prices for chicken.

The company reported net income of $160.9 million, or 62c per share, up from $42.9 million, or 17c per share, in the comparable year-ago quarter. Net sales increased to $2.14 billion from $2.07 billion in the third quarter of 2012.

“We are pleased to see continued improvement reflected in our results based on the consistent execution of our strategy,” said Bill Lovette, chief executive officer. “Our engagement with key customers continues to reflect the value they expect from Pilgrim's and is driving growth and success for our customers. We've also seen improvements in our margins as a result of the processes we've transformed through our commitment to operational excellence. We are close to achieving our operational improvement targets for the year and envision capturing even greater efficiencies in 2014. Our export model has enabled us to attain our goal of achieving 30% growth in value-added products year to date.

“While we saw some volatility in the Mexican market this quarter, we believe the fundamentals of the business and growth opportunities remain intact,” he added. “Market prices in the region softened during the quarter. However, we continue to view Mexico as a tremendous opportunity for profitability and growth.

“Cash flows from operations were $285.8 million for the quarter, enabling us to reduce our debt by $252 million. Our ending net debt position was $582.1 million, which is 0.87 times our trailing 12 months' EBITDA. This stronger capital structure is reflective of our effective operational execution and cash-management strategy."