Maple Leaf Foods Inc. reported $87.3 million in net earnings for the fiscal year 2011, up significantly from 2010's $35.6 million, even as it saw its fourth-quarter earnings drop to $9.2 million over 2010's $30.6 million, according to the company's year-end financial report.

Adjusted operating earnings in the meat products group for the fourth quarter of 2011 decreased by 27 percent to $27.5 million, compared to $37.7 million in 2010, mostly due to lower pork and poultry primary processing margins. Although still at reasonable levels, primary pork processing packer margins in North America were lower than the very significant levels reached in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to Maple Leaf Foods. Lower processor margins were partly offset by stronger pork export markets and improved product sales mix.

"We are very pleased with our results for the year and we remain on track to deliver our earnings and margin growth for 2012 through 2015," said Michael H. McCain, president and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods. "We realized strong earnings growth for the year in our protein operations, which contributed to a 40 percent rise in our adjusted earnings per share.

"However, we experienced a challenging fourth quarter as a result of unseasonably strong raw material costs which impacted continued margin growth in prepared meats. We also experienced short term higher operating costs in our bakery business. These factors, combined with lower pork and poultry processing margins from year-ago highs, contributed to lower relative performance in the fourth quarter."