Why do we import so much beef?

By Andrew Griffith, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Tennessee

One question that I receive on a regular basis is “Why do we import so much beef?”

First, the top four import sources of beef include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico and the majority of imported beef is used as processing beef, which means it is ground and not marketed as a muscle cut. In 2018, the U.S. exported about 150 million more pounds of beef than it imported. It is actually more common for the U.S. to import more beef than it exports.

Back to the question at hand, “Why do we import so much beef?” The answer is rather simple. If a person has a product that can achieve a goal and it is worth $5 per pound and they could purchase a similar product for $3 per pound that would achieve the same goal then the person would sell their product for $5 and purchase the similar product for $3 which would leave them with $2 per pound assuming no transaction costs.

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