* Meat sales improving after a slow April
* Cold, wet April hurt meat sales
* Tyson Foods says will be raising meat prices
CHICAGO, May 17 Domestic U.S. meat sales have
improved in May but remain slow after being hurt by cold, wet
conditions in April that discouraged outdoor grilling, an
executive at Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N) said on Tuesday.
"In last couple of weeks we have seen the demand improve,"
Chief Executive Donnie Smith said during a webcast presentation
at the BMO Capital Markets conference. "That last week of April
was very soft."
Tyson is the largest U.S. meat processor. Smith said the
cold, wet weather and a late Easter week contributed to slow
meat sales last month, and while meat sales have improved this
month, they still remain slow.
"Demand feels pretty good for two weeks after Easter, but
not hardly where we wanted it to be two weeks before Memorial
Day," he said.
The U.S. Memorial Day holiday, May 30, is seen as the start
of the summer cookout season and sales of cookout meats such as
beef steaks, pork chops, and chicken breasts often increase
Tyson on Tuesday repeated its forecast that retail meat
prices will continue to increase to offset higher production
costs. Strong meat exports plus higher feed costs have
increased cattle, hog, and chicken prices.
Tyson buys cattle and hogs for its beef and pork plants,
but raises its chickens.
"I don't believe all of the pricing has been passed onto
the consumer yet," said Smith. "We have started increasing
prices since the first part of the year and we will probably
continue to do so."
(Reporting by Bob Burgdorfer; editing by Jim Marshall)