The sale of beef in North America once again buoyed Cargill Inc.'s quarterly results as it weathered global trade uncertainty affecting its hallmark business.
Minnetonka-based Cargill reported profit for the quarter ended Aug. 31 of $915 million, a 10% decline against a strong year-ago period. Revenue rose 1% to $29 billion in the quarter, the first in its new fiscal year.
Cargill is the nation's largest privately held company and is not required to report detailed earnings like public companies.
Of Cargill's four main segments, adjusted operating earnings rose in animal nutrition and protein, and industrial and financial services. The company saw strong beef and egg sales in North America. Protein in Europe and Asia rose on strong poultry performance in China, Thailand and the United Kingdom.
Even with African swine fever devastating hog populations in Asia, Cargill saw positive gains in its global compound feed business. Aqua feed also posted good results as the period overlapped with aquaculture's peak season.
The other two segments had a rougher quarter. Cargill's food ingredients reported an adjusted operating earnings decline on lower volumes of starches, sweeteners and texturizers in Europe and North America and a softening cocoa market in several global regions due to higher operating costs in North American chocolate production. The company's bedrock business segment, origination and processing — which entails the buying, selling and trading of foodstuffs around the planet — also reported lower adjusted operating earnings as trade wars and bad weather continue to affect the world's giant agribusinesses, including Cargill.
Overall, the company's adjusted operating earnings were $908 million, up 3% from a year ago.
"Our year started on a good note as we continued to help our customers navigate an unpredictable business environment," Dave MacLennan, Cargill's chief executive, said in a statement.
"Right now, we are focused on modernizing all aspects of our operations so we can effectively and efficiently provide our customers with solutions they value everywhere they do business," he said.
During the first quarter, Cargill expanded its joint venture with Minneapolis-based Puris, investing an additional $75 million into that manufacturer's booming pea-protein business.
That investment will allow Puris to double production by converting an old dairy plant in Dawson, Minn., into a pea-protein production facility. Puris supplies alternative-meat brands like Beyond Meat with their plant-based protein base, and has greater demand from a number of companies than its current capacity can supply.
Cargill also formed a partnership last quarter with InnovaFeed, which makes protein for animal feed out of insects, and with White Dog Labs, which will give the company access to a fermentation-based protein used in salmon feeds.