Pilgrim's Pride Corp. (PPC) , the nation's second-largest poultry producer, said Monday that second-quarter earnings rose 71 percent due to strong growth in the company's chicken business, lower average feed costs and a one-time gain from a legal settlement.

Net income grew to $56.4 million, or 85 cents per share, from $33 million, or 50 cents per share, a year ago. The latest quarter includes a gain of $6.5 million, or 10 cents per share, associated with a litigation settlement.

Sales fell slightly to $1.375 billion from $1.385 billion last year.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for the company to post profit of 74 cents per share on sales of $1.38 billion in the latest quarter.

"Our record second fiscal quarter and first six months' performance reflects solid poultry market trends coupled with the continued strong growth of our chicken business, lower average feed costs when compared to the prior year and excellent results from our Mexico operations," said O.B. Goolsby, president and CEO.

The company said it expects poultry market prices will remain solid and feed costs will be considerably lower for the rest of fiscal 2005.