The success that U.S. meat exports have had, challenges ahead

American meat exports are strong. The U.S. Meat Export Federation is hosting its spring conference this week. Here is a breakdown of the numbers and what challenges are ahead.

Total beef exports for quarter one came in at 333,000 metric tons, which is basically steady with last year, but Dan Halstrom, U.S. Meat Export Federation President, says that there is still plenty of growth.

According to Halstrom, “March was a record month for growth, not only in China but also broad-based growth in other markets such as Korea, Philippians, South America, and Central America. Mexico as well, even though they are down 14 percent for the quarter, saw steady growth with a year ago indicating for the month of March a significant rebound. “

He says that one of the biggest successes of the last six months is the increase in beef exports to China.

“Demand for U.S. beef in China continues to grow with an increase of 15 times a year ago for quarter one, at a total of 31,000 metric tons,” he states. “We are still forecasting a record for China this year in 2021 with over 125,000 metric tons expected to be exported.”

For the pork industry, first-quarter exports totaled 783,000 metric tons, down about 7 percent from last year.

“You’ve got to remember this is compared to an all-time record high in quarter one in 2020, which was driven by China a year ago. China is still strong this year, but it’s down 17 percent from last year’s record, but I think the encouraging thing here is the broad-based growth in other countries around the world,” he explains.

To boost exports to Mexico, USMEF has launched the “American Pure Pork” branding program which has spurred a 43 percent growth in pork sales at Mexican Costco stores.

“We are positioning U.S. pork in Mexico as a pork that is not enhanced or not injected. It’s quite simply natural pork,” he adds. “This is significant as most of the Mexico domestic pork is injected in excess of 50 percent simply to lower the price point.”

Despite the success stories, Halstrom says that shipping still remains a challenge, and USMEF estimates thousands of frozen been and pork containers are currently being delayed or rolled in any given week.


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