beef exports

Records for Red Meat Exports Underscores Importance of Trade Agreements

Dan Beef, Cattle, Exports/Imports, Livestock, Marketing

red meat exports

U.S. red meat exports reached unprecedented levels in 2021. And according to a story from Joe Schuele, trade agreements played a major role in this success story. 

Records for Red Meat Exports Underscores Importance of Trade Agreements 

A detailed summary of the 2021 red meat export results is available from the USMEF website.


2021 Beef Exports Shatter Previous Records; Pork Export Value Also 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.

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%.

“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 USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “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.”

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.

“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.”

Beef exports to Korea, Japan and China/Hong Kong each top $2 billion

Japan remained the leading volume destination for U.S. beef exports in 2021 at 320,737 mt, up 5% from 2020 and the second largest of the post-BSE era. Export value climbed 22% to a record $2.376 billion, but finished a close second to South Korea. The U.S. industry remains concerned about Japan’s import safeguard, which resulted in a higher tariff rate being imposed on U.S. beef in late March and early April of last year. Without an adjustment to the safeguard threshold, a similar scenario is possible in 2022 and highly likely in years to come.

Beef exports to Korea totaled 280,143 mt, up 14% and eclipsing the previous record set in 2019. Export value soared 38% to $2.382 billion – not only a record for Korea, but the highest value achieved in any destination. Korea’s surging demand for U.S. beef has been driven largely by growth in the retail sector, both in traditional retail venues and e-commerce platforms. U.S. beef also continues to benefit from the phase-out of Korea’s import duties as the tariff rate under the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) dropped to 10.7% for 2022, down from 40% prior to implementation of the FTA.

Capitalizing on the market access gains included in the U.S.-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement, beef exports to China/Hong Kong also broke the $2 billion mark at $2.09 billion, up 114% from 2020, while volume climbed 87% to 240,827 mt. Direct exports to China, which started to gain significant traction in mid-2020, jumped 346% in volume (190,803 mt) and 413% in value ($1.59 billion). U.S. beef accounted for 6% of China’s total imports on a volume basis and 11% by value. Grain-fed beef now accounts for an estimated 11% of China’s imports with the U.S. as the largest supplier, providing approximately 68% of China’s grain-fed imports.

Other 2021 highlights for U.S. beef exports include:

  • Though beef exports to Taiwan dipped slightly in volume (63,095 mt, down 1% from 2020), export value climbed to $668 million – up 21% from 2020 and breaking the previous (2019) record by …..

Read the full report: 2021 Beef Exports Shatter Previous Records; Pork Export Value Also Reaches New High.