Fueled by higher poultry prices and better-managed expenses, Sysco (SYY) revealed on Monday stronger-than-expected first-quarter earnings and sales.

The largest U.S. food distributor reported net earnings of $285.6 million, or 48 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $286.6 million, or 49 cents.

Adjusted for one-time items, the Houston-based company said it earned 49 cents, topping average analyst estimates in a Thomson Reuters poll by a penny.

Revenue for the three months ended Sept. 28 climbed 5.7% to $11.7 billion from $11.1 billion in 2012, beating the Street’s view of $11.62 billion.

Food-cost inflation was 2.1%, led by the chicken category, while sales from acquisitions increased total sales by 2.3% and broadline sales grew by 4.1%.

"Our first quarter results were achieved in a market environment that remains very challenging for many of our customers, especially those who operate in the casual dining restaurant segment," Sysco CEO Bill DeLaney said in a statement.

Operating expenses rose slightly to $1.58 billion from $1.55 billion a year ago, however DeLaney said he was pleased with the company’s expense management as it continued to cut costs as part of a broader overhaul. 

Shares of Sysco were up 5% to $34.15 in recent trade.

Follow Jennifer Booton on Twitter at @Jbooton