Both U.S. beef and U.S. pork exports were on a record pace through September, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Beef exports posted one of the best months on record in September, with value climbing nearly 60% above last year. Pork export volume was slightly below last September, but value still increased 8%.
“Facing significant logistical headwinds and higher costs, these outstanding results are really a testament to the loyalty and strong demand from our international customers and to the innovation and determination of the U.S. industry,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF President and CEO.
Beef exports continued to soar in September at 123,628 metric tons (mt), up 20% from a year ago and the fourth largest volume of the post-BSE era. Export value jumped 59% to $954.1 million — the second highest month on record, trailing only August of 2021. For the first three quarters of 2021, beef exports increased 18% from a year ago to 1.08 million mt, valued at $7.58 billion – up more than $2 billion (36%) from the same period last year. Compared to the record year of 2018, January-September exports were 7% higher in volume and up 24% in value.
Japan, South Korea and China/Hong Kong are all on track to be $2 billion destinations for U.S. beef in 2021, with strong growth in chilled beef exports to Japan and Korea. Beef exports to most Western Hemisphere markets are also trending significantly higher than a year ago.
Beef exports to leading market Japan posted a strong performance in September at just under 30,000 mt, up 24% from a year ago, valued at $215.8 million (up 73%). This pushed January-September results 5% above last year at 246,380 mt, valued at $1.72 billion (up 17%).
Japan, South Korea and China/Hong Kong are all on track to be $2 billion destinations for U.S. beef in 2021, with strong growth in chilled beef exports to Japan and Korea.
Pork exports totaled 219,687 mt in September, down 1% from a year ago, but value was 8% higher at $608.3 million. For January through September, exports were 1% above last year’s record pace at 2.24 million mt, while value climbed 9% to $6.23 billion.
September pork exports to Mexico were the third largest on record at nearly 80,000 mt, pushing January-September exports to Mexico to a record pace. Pork exports to Central America and the Dominican Republic are also reaching new heights and exports to Colombia have rebounded significantly from a year ago.
While September exports of U.S. lamb were up only slightly from a year ago at 948 mt, value climbed 39% to $1.6 million. Through September, lamb exports were up 5% to 9,945 mt, valued at just under $14 million (up 11%). Shipments increased to leading market Mexico and trended higher to the Dominican Republic, Bermuda, Guatemala and Honduras.
Strong demand from Mexico provided another powerful boost for U.S. pork exports in September, as shipments climbed 45% from a year ago to 79,678 mt, the third highest volume on record, valued at $141.6 million (up 59%).
Pork exports to Central America continued to shine in September, climbing 63% from a year ago to 11,110 mt, while value nearly doubled to $30.9 million (up 93%). Led by outstanding growth in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, January-September exports to the region increased 48% in volume (98,547 mt) and 63% in value ($263.1 million).
Variety meat exports are a bright spot in 2021
Halstrom explained that a rebound in pork and beef variety meat exports, which took a step back last year amid COVID-related production obstacles, has been a strong source of momentum in 2021, reflecting exceptional global demand for high-value protein.
“The increase in the variety meat capture rate, and the resulting increase in exports, is especially encouraging because the labor and transportation challenges certainly have not gone away,” Halstrom said. “But these items are commanding a strong premium overseas, making it more feasible to get them into international commerce. Variety meat exports are a great complement to our strong domestic and international demand for muscle cuts, helping maximize carcass value.”
China’s demand for U.S. pork variety meat has remained strong even as muscle cut exports to China have eased, helping push total January-September pork variety meat exports 17% above last year to 405,744 mt, valued at $949.1 million (up 26%). Beef variety meat exports, led by strong increases in Japan, Mexico, Central and South America and the ASEAN region, were 10% above last year at 226,755 mt, with value up 19% to $762.2 million.