Photo courtesy of Jake Zajkowski.

Strong pork exports, beef exports below record pace of 2022

U.S. pork exports concluded an excellent first half with another strong performance in June, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). While well below the record pace established in 2022, June beef exports topped $900 million in value, pushing first-half export value to nearly $5 billion.

First-half pork exports achieve broad-based growth

June pork exports totaled 245,964 metric tons (mt), up 12% from a year ago, while export value climbed 6% to $691.4 million. Through the first half of 2023, exports were 14% above last year’s pace at 1.47 million mt, valued at $4.05 billion (up 12%). 

Pork exports to Mexico are on a record pace, with first-half value up 21% to more than $1 billion. First-half exports increased sharply year-over-year to the ASEAN region, Australia, Taiwan, the Dominican Republic and Chile, while also posting gains in China/Hong Kong, South Korea and Central America. Pork variety meat exports surged by 32% in the first half to more than 297,000 mt, led by record-large shipments to China.

“Mexico is certainly the 2023 pacesetter for U.S. pork exports but what’s really exciting is that the industry is achieving such broad-based growth internationally,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO. “Exports are making impressive gains in the Western Hemisphere and reclaiming market share in many Asia-Pacific markets, and U.S. pork is well-positioned to continue gaining momentum in the second half.” 

First-half beef exports lower overall, but bright spots emerge

Beef exports totaled 115,107 mt in June, down 12% from a year ago and slightly below the May volume. Export value was $909.5 million, down 13% year-over-year but the highest since October and 4% above the value posted in May. First-half beef exports were 10% below last year’s record pace at 669,176 mt. Export value was just under $5 billion – down 19% from a year ago but still 8% above the first half of 2021.

June beef exports to Taiwan were the largest in 14 months, while exports to Mexico continued to build momentum and shipments to Canada, Hong Kong, South Africa and the Dominican Republic posted year-over-year gains. June exports to South Korea, China and Japan were below last year’s large totals, though shipments to Japan improved notably in value from the previous month. 

“It was a challenging first half for beef exports, especially when compared to the blistering pace established a year ago,” Halstrom said. “But we are encouraged to see that exports are still accounting for a consistently high percentage of total beef production, and variety meat exports have held up very well considering the decline in U.S. slaughter. These metrics continue to illustrate the important contribution of exports in maximizing beef carcass value.”

Lamb exports trend lower, fall below year-ago level

After a strong start in 2023, exports of U.S. lamb muscle cuts trended sharply lower in the second quarter. June exports were just 109 mt, down 56% from a year ago, while value fell 45% to $843,000. First-half exports were down 5% in volume (1,067 mt) and 6% in value ($6.35 million). Exports trended higher to the Netherlands Antilles, the Bahamas, Guatemala and Canada, and volume increased slightly to Mexico.

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