U.S. Pork Export Market Sets New Record – Beef Continues Rebound

US - The Boston Red Sox have won two World Series championships in the past four years. The New England Patriots have won three Super Bowls in the past seven years. When it comes to success, both could take a lesson from the U.S. pork industry, which achieved its 16th consecutive record-setting year of exports in 2007, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
calendar icon 15 February 2008
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Both the U.S. pork and beef industries had outstanding export years in 2007, with beef continuing to rebound from selected market closings that have affected exports since the 2003 discovery of BSE (mad-cow disease) in the United States.


U.S. beef exports were impressive in 2007 as well, increasing 24 percent to 464,301 metric tons (just over 1 billion pounds) and 32 percent in value to more than $2 billion. Beef variety meat exports increased 9 percent to 306,895 metric tons (676.6 million pounds) and 18 percent in value to $613 million. Combined beef and beef variety meat exports increased 18 percent to 771,196 metric tons (1.7 billion pounds) and 28 percent in value to $2.617 billion.

According to Daley, growth in exports to Canada, Japan, Korea and the ASEAN contributed to the overall increase despite some remaining market access issues and a 3 percent decline in exports to the largest market, Mexico. Beef plus beef variety meat exports to Mexico increased 1 percent in value to $1.185 billion but declined 3 percent in volume to 359,452 metric tons (792.4 million pounds).

Exports to Canada increased 37 percent to 132,144 metric tons (291.3 million pounds) valued at $602 million, largely fueled by currency dynamics and the increase in live cattle imports from Canada.

Beef variety meat exports to the Middle East – primarily liver exports to Egypt – increased 9 percent to 88,845 metric tons (195.8 million pounds). Beef (non-variety meats) exports to the Middle East increased 4 percent to 6,956 metric tons (15.3 million pounds), driven by 48 percent growth in exports to the United Arab Emirates.

Beef exports to Japan increased by 265 percent to 44,718 metric tons (98.6 million pounds) valued at nearly $230 million. The 20-month age limit applied to beef exports to Japan has restricted combined beef and variety meat exports to just 12 percent of 2003 export volume.

Although market access was limited to a strict boneless-under-30-month protocol for an intermittent five months during 2007, Korea was the fourth largest market for beef exports with 24,240 metric tons (53.4 million pounds) valued at $117.3 million.

Taiwan was the fifth largest market, with exports increasing 6 percent to 22,566 metric tons (49.7 million pounds) valued at $107 million.

Among other key markets for U.S. beef exports:
  • The ASEAN region increased 246 percent to 14,882 metric tons (32.8 million pounds) valued at more than $43 million. The leading market in the region was Vietnam with a 462 percent increase to 11,012 metric tons (24.3 million pounds) followed by the Philippines (72 percent increase to 2,725 metric tons or 6 million pounds) and Singapore.
  • Hong Kong increased 205 percent to 9,438 metric tons (20.8 million pounds) with exports still limited to boneless beef from cattle less than 30 months of age.
  • The EU increased 137 percent to 7,961 metric tons (17.5 million pounds) valued at more than $42 million, with the Netherlands as the leading destination (443 percent increase to 4,347 metric tons or 9.6 million pounds) followed by Italy and Germany. According to Daley, the EU’s ban on Brazilian beef exports – effective at the end of January – could offer potential for U.S. beef, depending on the results of the next EU audit (February-March) and the amount of time taken to relist Brazilian farms. Since the EU imported about 67 percent of its beef from Brazil through October 2007, restrictions on Brazilian exports could have tremendous implications for EU importers and global beef trade.
  • Beef exports (including variety meat) to the Caribbean increased 10 percent to 15,912 metric tons (35 million pounds) and exports to the Dominican Republic increased 32 percent to 3,050 metric tons (6.7 million pounds).
  • Central and South America increased imports of beef and beef variety meat by 46 percent to 8,791 metric tons (19.4 million pounds), with Peru as the largest market (61 percent increase to 2,729 metric tons or 6 million pounds) followed by Guatemala (102 percent jump to 1,854 metric tons or 4.1 million pounds) and Costa Rica (16 percent increase to 1,237 metric tons or 2.7 million pounds). Peru is a growing destination for U.S. beef livers and the Peru Free Trade Agreement provides duty-free access for U.S. variety meat exports within an initial 10,000 metric ton tariff rate quota (TRQ). High quality (choice and prime) U.S. beef currently enters Guatemala and Costa Rica duty-free through the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
  • Daley noted that the weak U.S. dollar continues to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. exports while high global protein prices and strong demand provide potential for high quality U.S. beef and pork exports. “Access to foreign markets is critical for the United States to take advantage of these unprecedented global opportunities this year,” she stated.


Overall, pork exports increased 3 percent in volume over 2006, surpassing 1.3 million metric tons (nearly 2.9 billion pounds). The value of those exports jumped 10 percent over 2006, exceeding $3.15 billion. Pork muscle cut exports also increased 3 percent in volume and 10 percent in value while pork variety meat exports increased 5 percent in volume and 14 percent in value.

Japan remains the top destination for U.S. pork, accounting for 36 percent of value of all U.S. pork exports. Japan imported 358,582 metric tons (more than 790 million pounds) of pork in 2007, a 6 percent increase over the prior year. Those imports were valued at $1.152 billion, an 11 percent jump over 2006.

Mexico remains the No. 2 destination for U.S. pork despite a 22 percent decline in imports in 2007. According to Erin Daley, USMEF manager of research and analysis, pork exports to Mexico returned to more traditional levels in 2007 with some erosion in U.S. pork gains due to increased domestic poultry, beef and pork production, but she noted that exports from the United States continue to dominate that country’s import market with 85 percent share. Pork exports to Mexico in 2007 totaled 276,388 metric tons (more than 609 million pounds).

China/Hong Kong was the largest growth market for U.S. pork exports, jumping 91 percent to 169,160 metric tons (nearly 373 million pounds) valued at almost $271 million. Exports to China/Hong Kong surpassed exports to Canada in volume (148,576 metric tons or 327.5 million pounds), but Canada remains the No. 3 market in value of pork exports at $491.58 million, a 12 percent jump over 2006.

“The strong Canadian dollar and high feed and labor costs will continue to influence meat and livestock trade with our northern neighbor,” Daley said.

Pork exports to Russia doubled in 2006, and continued to grow in 2007, setting a new record with a 21 percent hike to 99,876 metric tons (220.2 million pounds) valued at nearly $207 million, a 26 percent increase in value over the prior year. Russia is the world’s second-largest pork importer behind Japan. The weak U.S. dollar, combined with high Brazilian pork prices, gave the United States a competitive advantage in the Russian market, enabling U.S. exports to exceed the 49,000 metric ton (108 million pounds) quota for U.S. pork imports.

Among other key export markets for U.S. pork:

South Korea dipped 9 percent to 99,852 metric tons (220.1 million pounds), but value was essentially unchanged at $231 million.
  • Australia and New Zealand increased 22 percent to 37,452 metric tons (82.5 million pounds) valued at $99.863 million, a 33 percent increase over 2006. Australia’s Productivity Commission will release its final report in March, following the preliminary decision which did not recommend safeguard action against Denmark, Canada and the United States.
  • Central and South America also increased 22 percent to 33,119 metric tons (73 million pounds) valued at $70.9 million. The largest markets were Honduras (17 percent increase to 11,484 metric tons or 25 million pounds), Guatemala (21 percent increase to 6,092 metric tons or 13.4 million pounds), and Colombia (21 percent increase to 5,183 metric tons or 11.4 million pounds). U.S. pork exports will continue to benefit from Free Trade Agreements with all three of these countries.
  • Pork exports to the European Union (EU) increased 55 percent to 19,722 metric tons (nearly 43.5 million pounds) with a 70 percent increase in value to $57.8 million. France was the new growth market and the United Kingdom and the Netherlands were the other top destinations.
  • Exports to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) also increased 62 percent to 15,672 metric tons (34.5 million pounds) valued at $30.5 million. The Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore were the largest markets.
  • The Dominican Republic increased 39 percent to 5,746 metric tons (12.6 million pounds) valued at $10.8 million while exports to the Caribbean (excluding Cuba and the Dominican Republic) fell 12 percent to 14,934 metric tons (32.9 million pounds)
  • Exports to Taiwan fell 37 percent to 15,974 metric tons (35.2 million pounds) due primarily to market access issues.

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