2022 NCBA: US beef exports expected to hit record high in 2021

Dan Halstrom shared expectations on beef exports and emerging markets
calendar icon 7 February 2022
clock icon 4 minute read

Dan Halstrom, CEO and president of the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) shared expectations for total 2021 beef exports along with new, emerging markets at the NCBA conference in Houston, Texas, USA.

Beef exports had a very strong year and while the final December data is not yet in for 2021, USMEF says beef exports will hit a record - up about 16% to 17% in volume. But the real story is on the value side.

"We're we're going to be up well over $10 billion in sales, which is a record by over $2 billion for the year. The exciting thing about it is not so much the numbers as it is that it's not any one country - we have broad-based growth from a variety of regions of the world," he said. "We've got Japan, Korea and China. We've also got Latin America, Mexico, Central America, but you've also got places like Indonesia that are up quite a bit along with places like Columbia and South America. We're seeing middle classes emerge throughout the world, and these are middle classes that can afford our products. It's a formula for success right now."

Emerging export markets for US beef

"You start with Central and South America as two of the leading regions - that three or four years ago we really weren't focusing on them much - but now you add up those regions and it's significant business, including hundreds of millions of dollars a year," said Halstrom.

What's really driving emerging markets is more spending power. With increased incomes, consumers want higher quality food.

"I think other regions with emerging export markets would be Southeast Asia - Indonesia, Singapore, this general region and the Philippines," he said. "Another area we don't talk much about is Africa - the whole continent of Africa - but specifically south and west Africa, like Angola, South Africa and Ghana. These areas are taking a lot of variety meats today, but they're starting to get a taste for some of the muscle cuts as well. We're going be talking about these regions in the years to come."

Value of US beef

Why is the US one of the top beef exporters globally?

"We're a world leader in reputation when it comes to food safety, and then you put on top of that, the rich grain finished taste of US beef," said Halstrom. "We don't claim to be the cheapest nor do we want to be, but we're seeing a world that's able to pay for quality even in some of these emerging regions. I think we're well positioned as high quality, rich in taste."

Halstrom said another benefit of US beef is the US ability to send different cuts of beef to different parts of the world. In Asia, they're looking for cuts from the front quarter, the chuck and the very marbled pieces of the carcass, along with the navel and the brisket area are very popular for certain cuisines in Asia. Latin America prefers more lean cuts like the sirloin. 

"It's all about putting the right cuts in the right market to maximize value," he noted. We really can't stop talking of this until we talk about variety meat. We're gonna export over $10 billion this year in 2021, and over $1 billion or more than 10% is variety meat. This is like livers going to places like Egypt and Angola; tongues going to Japan; tripe going to Latin America. Putting the right cut in the markets help to drive some of this $465 value per head."

China exports surge in 2021

There's no doubt that China is one of the successes of 2021 for the US. The Phase One Agreement with China was made exporting beef much simpler and more transparent, and the US supply chain is able to capitalize on the opportunity.

If you fast forward to two years post-implementation, China and Hong Kong combined have taken about $2 billion pounds of beef in 2021. When asked if this level is sustainable, Halstrom said the growth rate is expected to slow down a bit, but it should continue to grow.

"I think you're going to see good growth potentially the next several years into China," he explained. "The other thing is that our products are rich, grain finished taste is unique in China. There's a little bit of long fed beef going out of Australia and China, but otherwise there are no other competitors. So it's somewhat of a new segment. As the Chinese market gets more of an appetite and more exposure to US beef, it'll help sell itself." 


Sarah Mikesell, Senior Editor

Sarah Mikesell, Senior Editor

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