GREELEY, Colo. (AP) -- Pilgrim's Pride Corp.'s fourth-quarter earnings climbed 24 percent on improved customer demand.

The poultry producer also said Friday that it expects better prices this year. Its stock gained 60 cents, or 7.7 percent, to $8.44 in morning trading. The shares have traded in a range of $5.35 to $13.05 over the past year.

Net income rose to $41.8 million for the three months ended Dec. 26 from $33.6 million a year earlier. However, earnings per share fell to 20 cents from 44 cents as the Greeley, Colo., company reported nearly triple the shares outstanding in the current quarter compared with a year earlier.

Revenue increased 13 percent to $1.81 billion from $1.6 billion.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet forecast, on average, earnings per share of 8 cents and revenue of $1.93 billion in the most recent quarter.

President and CEO Bill Lovette said in a statement that the company is "cautiously optimistic about the outlook for chicken this year." But he anticipates budget-conscious shoppers will gravitate to chicken as beef and pork prices are likely to increase.

Full-year earnings fell 21 percent to $87.1 million, or 41 cents per share, compared with $110.8 million, or $1.44 per share, in the prior year.

The fiscal 2010 results include restructuring charges and reorganization expenses of 26 cents per share compared with charges of 97 cents per share a year earlier.

Annual revenue edged up 1 percent to $6.88 billion from $6.81 billion.

Pilgrim's Pride runs chicken processing plants and prepared foods facilities in 12 states, Puerto Rico and Mexico.