Beef exports shatter records and pork export value reaches new high

U.S. beef exports greatly exceeded previous volume and value records in 2021, surpassing $10 billion for the first time, according to year-end data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Pork exports finished slightly below the record volume reached in 2020 but set a new value record, topping $8 billion for the first time.

Broad-based growth for U.S. beef exports

December beef exports totaled 121,429 metric tons (mt), up 1% from a year ago, while value climbed 33% to $991.8 million — the third largest month on record. These results pushed 2021 volume to 1.44 million mt, up 15% from a year ago and 7% above the previous record set in 2018. Export value soared to $10.58 billion, up 38% from 2020 and shattering the previous record (also from 2018) by 27%. 

Beef exports to Korea, Japan and China/Hong Kong each exceeded $2 billion, setting new volume and value records in Korea and China/Hong Kong and a value record in Japan. Exports also set a new value record in Taiwan and reached new heights in Central America, Colombia and Indonesia. Global exports of U.S. beef variety meat also set a new value record of $1.09 billion, up 24% year-over-year.

“The beef export results are truly remarkable, especially considering the COVID-related obstacles in the global foodservice sector and all the supply-side and logistical challenges faced by the U.S. industry,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF President and CEO. “Obviously our large Asian markets accounted for much of the growth, but it really takes broad-based global demand to reach these impressive levels. So this success story is not just about Korea, Japan and China — but also a strong performance in Taiwan, excellent growth in Central and South America and a rebound in Mexico and Southeast Asia.” 

Surging pork exports to Mexico and other key markets fuel new value record

Pork exports trended lower in December, falling 17% from a year ago to 215,872 mt, valued at $604.3 million (down 12%). For 2021, export volume was 2.92 million mt, down 2% from the 2020 record, but export value still climbed 5% to a record $8.11 billion. 

Record-large pork exports to Mexico, Central America, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and the Philippines helped offset a decline in demand from China in 2021. Exports also increased to Japan and South Korea, including larger volumes of chilled pork. Global exports of U.S. pork variety meat set a new value record of $1.24 billion, up 19% year-over-year.

“Entering last year, we knew it would be a daunting task to match the record level of pork exports reached in 2020 because of the recovery in China’s swine herd and its rising domestic pork production,” Halstrom said. “But the U.S. is less dependent on China than other major pork exporters, and this is definitely reflected in the 2021 results. Even with shipments to China falling nearly 30%, total U.S. exports posted a very strong performance thanks to outstanding growth in Latin America and other key markets.” 

Lamb exports end 2021 on high note

December exports of U.S. lamb reached $2.49 million — the highest monthly value in more than seven years. For 2021, lamb exports increased 9% to 14,053 mt, valued at $20.45 million (up 19%). While volume growth was driven primarily by lamb variety meat exports to Mexico, lamb muscle cut exports rebounded to the Caribbean — achieving impressive growth in the Dominican Republic and increasing to Bermuda, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos.

A detailed summary of the 2021 red meat export results, including market-specific highlights, is available from the USMEF website.

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