In September, Smithfield said lower profit margins on fresh pork and higher selling costs drove down its first-quarter profit by about 25 percent, despite gains for packaged meats.
Pork producers are caught in a tug-of-war with consumers. They need to hike prices to offset rising costs, mainly for the corn used for feed, while consumers remain sensitive to higher prices. So Smithfield risks losing sales if consumers cut back or buy other meats, like chicken.
Michael Felberbaum can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/MLFelberbaum .