McDonalds will feature its Chicken McBites in a a limited-time promotion in early spring 2012, company executives said during its third-quarter conference call with shareholders this week.  McBites, which were initially test-marketed in Australia and then Detroils this year, are bite-sized nuggets similar to a chicken version of popcorn shrimp.  McBites will come in packages of four, six, and 12-ounces and be accompanied by dipping sauces.

Meanwhile, the company reported strong third-quarter earnings.  Net income rose 9 percent to $1.51 billion on a 14-percent gain in revenue to $7.17 billion.  Sales of stores open more than a year increased 5 percent for the quarter, including a 4.4 percent gain in the United States.  McDonald’s credited those recent gains to menu items such as the original McNuggets, now with four new dipping sauces, that grew 10 percent in the quarter.

In the stockholder call, McDonald’s also addressed pricing in the face of rising commodity costs that are squeezing margins.  Ingredient costs rose 8 percent in the third quarter on top of 6 percent and 1 percent in the two previous quarters, and the company expects commodity costs to increase further.

These prices, which typically moderate after the summer, have remained high, Chief Financial Officer Peter Bensen told analysts.  “As a result, we now expect commodity cost in the U.S. to be up a little more than previously expected–4.5% to 5% for the full year with fourth-quarter increases easing compared to second and third quarter,” Bensen said.