(Adds details, analyst comments)
By Tom Polansek
CHICAGO, Aug 6 (Reuters) - Tyson Foods Inc beat analysts' quarterly profit estimates on Monday as the No. 1 U.S. meat processor reported a record operating income for its beef business due to increased exports and cattle supplies.
Stronger demand for beef offset weaker results in Tyson's pork and chicken units, which the company said were hurt by trade disputes between the United States and major importers such as Mexico and China.
Tyson shares rose 2.6 percent to $59.28 in afternoon trading, but are still down 27 percent for the year.
The maker of Ball Park hotdogs and Jimmy Dean sausages has come under pressure from trade spats that have disrupted U.S. pork exports, increased domestic supplies and hurt prices. Tyson last week cut its full-year profit forecast, citing uncertainty in trade policies and tariffs from importers.
Sales volume for Tyson's beef rose in the third quarter due to a decline in prices fueled by increased cattle supplies, according to the company.
Those lower prices prompted some casual U.S. restaurants to promote beef products instead of chicken, Chief Executive Tom Hayes said.
"Intertwined with uncertainty in trade policies and tariffs are increasing supplies of relatively low-priced beef and pork that are competing with chicken," he said on a conference call.
The shift away from chicken helped Tyson double its beef unit's operating income from a year ago to $318 million, accounting for 40 percent of its total for the quarter. Operating margins for beef jumped to 8 percent from 3.7 percent a year earlier.
In Tyson's chicken business, operating income fell 35 percent to $189 million. Margins dropped to 6.4 percent from 10.2 percent.
"Chicken margins came in well below forecast on a sharp decline in demand given the surge in competing red meat supplies," said Jeremy Scott, vice president of research for Mizuho Securities.
Tyson's pork unit saw operating income fall 51 percent to $67 million, while margins weakened to 5.6 percent from 10.3 percent a year earlier.
In a good sign for Tyson, pork margins improved in July, Scott said.
Net income attributable to Tyson rose to $541 million, or $1.47 per share, in the quarter ended June 30, from $447 million, or $1.21 per share, a year earlier.
Analysts on average expected earnings of $1.40 per share on revenue of $10.28 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Excluding certain items, the company earned $1.50 per share.
The Arkansas-based company said sales rose 2 percent to $10.05 billion.
Additional reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Meredith Mazzilli