Market Overview

Who Would You Rather... Tyson Foods vs. Pilgrim's Pride

Americans consume a lot of chicken. It estimated that Americans consume about 81 pounds of poultry per year, per capita. With there being upwards of 310 million people living in the United States, it is no wonder why poultry production is big business. Two of the biggest names in poultry production are Tyson Foods (NYSE: TSN) and Pilgrim's Pride (NASDAQ: PPC).

In recent years Tyson's has been the number one chicken producer in the U.S. with 10.1 percent of the market in 2010. Pilgrim's Pride is the number two producer of chicken and came in at 6.5 percent in 2010. So, when it comes to the country's largest producers of chicken –who'd you rather - Tyson or Pilgrim's Pride?

Tyson food is not the kind of flashy company that many people will think about when considering the biggest companies in the world. Despite this, Tyson Foods has quietly been building its brands and networks throughout the world, and is now a company which sees approximately $26 billion in annual sales.The United States is not the company's only market.

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Tyson Foods is present across the world, and has grown to be the largest meat producer in the world. In fact, Tysons has entered rarified territory as being one of Forbes' 100 most valuable companies in Unite States.

Tyson Foods stock has been having a pretty good year. The stock price started the year at $19.92, and has since climbed to over $30.00 per share, better than a 50 percent jump.

Pilgrim's Corp, still popularly known as Pilgrim's Pride, is the second largest chicken producer in the United States and Puerto Rico, though some sources put it at number one. The company has had its problems over the years, including an embarrassing recall in 2002 and a 2009 bankruptcy. Pilgrim's Crop is now a subsidiary of the world's second largest meat processor – Brazilian JBS.

Despite these setbacks, Pilgrims is a large industrial operation, reportedly with the capacity to process over nine billion chickens per year for consumption. 2012 sales were $8.1 billion, which is made possible by the company's 38,000 strong workforce.

Pilgrim's started the year at about $7.68 and has since traded up significantly to $15.66 in recent trading. This represents a 100 percent increase for those who were fortunate enough to have bought at the beginning of the year and held.

The chicken business, and meat production in general, faces numerous challenges. Growing awareness of meat factory conditions and meat production methods have caused many consumers to look for healthier and less environmentally impactful alternatives. Additionally, consumers are increasingly aware of the living conditions of food animals before they are slaughtered.

Time will tell if these factors will have a significant impact on the poultry business. But for now, these are the two big boys in chicken production and processing. So, who'd you rather – Tyson or Pilgrim's Pride?

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