Cargill’s adjusted operating earnings totalled US$476 million in the fourth quarter, down 41% from the US$809 million in the corresponding period of the previous year, bringing earnings for the full fiscal year to US$2.82 billion (-12%). Net earnings on a U.S. GAAP basis totalled US$235 million, down 67% from US$711 million in the comparative period. For the 12 months, net earnings decreased 17% to US$2.56 billion. Fourth-quarter and full-year revenues each declined 1% to US$29.9 billion and US$113.5 billion, respectively. Cash flow from operations amounted to US$5.19 billion (-1%).

“Throughout the year, we faced a very challenging global business environment that slowed earnings. Still, we improved performance in several food and financial businesses and significantly reduced costs companywide,” said Dave MacLennan, Chairman and CEO, Cargill, particularly highlighting the North American protein business, which led earnings by combining strong demand for beef and eggs with consumer insights that helped customers win in local markets.

The Animal Nutrition & Protein segment was the biggest contributor to Cargill’s earnings for the quarter. According to the Company, North American protein results were slightly below last year’s level, as spring flooding in the U.S. Midwest delayed cattle shipments and cool weather dampened the start of the outdoor grilling season. However, domestic and export demand for beef are said to have remained strong. During the quarter, Cargill says it invested to serve growing demand for protein, particularly across Asia.

Building on earlier moves to diversify its protein business, Cargill invested in Aleph Farms, a cultured meat company focussed on growing complex meat varieties such as steak. The new capital is expected to help Aleph Farms move closer to commercialisation, with a limited consumer product launch anticipated in three-to-five years. “Cargill is committed both to growing its traditional animal protein business and to exploring new opportunities to meet higher future demand for all forms of protein”, said the Company in a statement.