The familiar admonition is, “Don’t count your chickens until they’re hatched.” Yet the close of Tyson Foods’ fiscal 2007 year gave President and Chief Executive Officer Dick Bond reason to pause and count his company’s blessings.

Coming off an extremely difficult fiscal 2006, Tyson responded last year by tightening and refocusing its processes, cutting costs, and pushing innovation. By year’s end (last September), the Springdale, Ark.-based business posted record annual sales of $26.9 billion with diluted earnings per share of $0.75 compared to a diluted loss per share of $0.58 in fiscal 2006. Officials likewise noted that each of the company’s major segments - including chicken, beef, pork and prepared foods - were profitable compared to the year before. Tyson also saw its debt balance drop below $2.8 billion, the lowest level since it purchased beef and pork giant IBP back in 2001.

“It really was an excellent year with many milestones,” wrote Bond, in Tyson’s annual report. “We opened our Discovery Center in February, which is already providing significant competitive advantage in new product development and consumer insights. Tyson Fresh Meats made nearly $300 million in executional improvements year-over-year, meaning we are operating in a much more efficient, cost effective way.

“I think our greatest accomplishment, however, was the nearly $700 million in operating income improvement,” he continued. “Including $334 million in additional grain costs we incurred, we actually had a nearly $1 billion swing compared to 2006.”

Last year saw Tyson (1) rationalize three beef plants to improve capacity utilization, (2) close two prepared food plants, (3) sell two commodity poultry plants and (4) decide not to rebuild another poultry operation destroyed by fire. Separately, officials embraced a formal “cost management initiative” to trim more than $250 million in additional spending.

Meanwhile, Tyson went on the offensive - putting its $45 million Discovery Center to work. The 100,000-square-foot R&D complex opened last February.

In a Refrigerated & Frozen Foods December 2007 feature, Wendy Davidson, Tyson Food Service senior vice president of national accounts, commented, “We call this our ‘National Account Playplace’ because we now can go from ideation to bench top and into a pilot plant within just a matter of days.”

Tyson also has transferred some of its best new ideas to the retail side. Last July marked the debut of Tyson Any’tizers, a line of restaurant-style snacks.

New products also are key to Tyson’s future. Bond used the company’s annual report to signal his growth agenda for near term. Tyson’s four-point plan includes (1) creating innovative and insight-driven food solutions, (2) optimizing commodity business models, (3) building a multi-national enterprise and (4) revolutionizing the conversion of raw materials and by-products into high margin initiatives.

For The Record

Jan. ’08 - Tyson says it will cut beef slaughter activities in Emporia, Kan. The company promotes 28-year Tyson veteran Donnie Smith to group vice president, Consumer Products.

Oct. ’07 - Twenty-five-year company veteran Bill Lovette steps down as senior group vice president of Poultry and Prepared Foods, a position that will not be filled. Tyson announces restructuring to simplify poultry and fresh meats management.

Sept. ’07 - Tyson says Chairman John Tyson will resign executive duties but continue as chairman in a non-executive capacity.

May ’07 - Tyson sells two commodity poultry operations in Ashland and Gadsden, Ala., to Koch Foods Inc., Park Ridge, Ill.