15 Countries that Export the Most Beef in the World

Ramish Cheema

February 3, 2023·9 min read

In this piece, we will take a look at the 15 countries that export the most beef in the world. For more countries, head on over to 5 Countries that Export the Most Beef in the World

Beef is one of the most widely eaten meat in the world. It is typically defined as the meat of cattle, or bovine animals, with cows and buffaloes being the most common kinds. According to data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), beef is the third most popular meat in the world, after pork and poultry. Data shows that beef represents 24% of the world’s meat consumption, while the number one meat, pork, accounts for 36%.

Additionally, the FAO also believes that global beef production will sit at 75.9 Mt by 2030 after it stood at 70.5 Mt in 2021 for an estimated growth rate of 5.8%. Production in the developed world will nearly remain static during this time period, as the beef output, which stood at 30 Mt in 2021, will only grow to 30.1 Mt by 2030. In comparison, all of the growth will come courtesy of the developing world, which produced 40.6 Mt of beef in 2021 and will grow this to 46.2 Mt by 2030. Segregating the developed world via regions, Europe’s 5% production drop will be the primary reason for the static growth, even as North America is projected to grow production by 6%. Why will Europe’s beef production fall in the future? Well, advances in milk production technology take some of the blame, as they enable more milk output per cow and result in a subsequent decrease in cow inventory.

In terms of monetary value, research firm Fortune Business Insights believes that the global beef market was worth $395 billion in 2021. The report, published in Q2 2022, estimated that by 2022 end, the sector would be worth $414 billion. From then until 2030, its compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) will sit at 5.5% for a final value of $604 billion. Astute readers will note that this CAGR mirrors the production rate estimated by the FAO. North America was the largest beef consumer according to the research firm, particularly due to the widespread consumption of steaks and fast food. Additionally, while Europe had some of the largest herds in the world, beef consumption in the continent will decline due to growing awareness of the health risks associated with beef consumption and cattle viruses making the consumer wary about consuming too much beef.

The beef production industry is also relying on several different technologies to solve challenges. One such challenge is managing mud during a rainy season, which reduces the area for cattle cultivation. A novel approach at this front involves the use of geotextile fabric and concrete to reconstruct heavy use areas that are resistant to runoff water contaminating animal water sources. These fabrics separate the rock layers from soil and are frequently used in road building projects. Another emerging trend is lab cultivated meat, which is grown in laboratories instead of being acquired through slaughter.

Most of the world’s prominent beef producers are based in the U.S., with some top names being Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE:TSN), Strauss Brands LLC, and National Beef Packing Company, LLC.

Our Methodology

We used global export data to sift out the world’s top beef exporters. This was then cross referenced with several sources of beef quality to ensure that the top countries are also present in the exporter list. Frozen, instead of fresh beef exports are used, as otherwise, they distort the list by omitting countries such as Japan and placing Brazil at number ten. By the way, there is one Asian country in our list of the top 5 beef exporting countries. Can you guess which one?

15 Countries that Export the Most Beef in the World

15. Japan

Frozen Bovine Meat Exports in 2021: $256 million

Japan is an Asian country that is one of the largest economies in the world and is known for its leading technology. Japan has four primary breeds of cattle, which are collectively dubbed the Wagyu. The most populous breed is the Japanese Black’s Tajima strain. One of Japan’s most famous beef is the Kobe beef. It is one of the rarest beef varieties in the world since only 3,000 cattle can be classified as Kobe each year. Other famous Japanese beef varieties are Matsusaka beef, Mishima beef, and Yonezawa beef. While Japan exported $256 million of frozen beef in 2021, at the same time it also exported $232 million of fresh beef. Naturally, this remarkable industry also makes Japan one of the world’s largest beef exporters.

14. Republic of Belarus

Frozen Bovine Meat Exports in 2021: $313 million

The Republic of Belarus is a landlocked Eastern European country with a GDP per capita of $21,710. Livestock farming forms a large part of the country’s agricultural sector, and as of May 2020, Belarus had 4.2 million cattle animals alongside 1.4 million cows. Belarus’ largest meat export in 2021 was that of fowl animals, and frozen beef exports came in at second place through $313 million in exports. At the same time, fresh beef exports stood at $290 million. Some large beef companies and processors are JSC Brest Meat Packing Plant and Open Joint Stock Company Volkovysk Meat-Processing Plant. Belarus’ largest frozen beef importer was Russia, with $151 million in imports.

13. Republic of Nicaragua

Frozen Bovine Meat Exports in 2021: $368 million

The Republic of Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, with one of the lowest GDP per capita in the world at $2,126. Beef is an important part of the country’s economy, with roughly 10% of its exports coming from the meat. Naturally, this also lends the country unique beef types. One of these is the La Reina beef. However, Nicaraguan beef has also been the source of controversy, as investigations have revealed that it often comes at the cost of cattle ranchers forcibly displacing – and even killing – local populations to take over their land for beef production. Both Nestle and Cargill have sourced beef from the country.

12. Netherlands

Frozen Bovine Meat Exports in 2021: $402 million

The Netherlands is a prosperous European nation that is also one of the richest in the world. The Dutch Holstein Friesian (HF) is also one of the highest milk producing animals in the world. Other cow breeds are the Maas-Rhine-Ijssel cow and the Groningen White-Headed cow. Additionally, the Netherlands, despite being one of Europe’s largest meat exporters, is cutting down on its cattle herd sizes in the wake of new European Union legislation. While it exported $402 million of frozen beef in 2021, Holland was the world’s third largest exporter of fresh or chilled beef, with a whopping $2.7 billion of exports. Naturally, most of these were made to neighboring countries, with Germany being the largest importer, and Netherlands being one of the largest beef exporters on the planet.

11. Republic of Poland

Frozen Bovine Meat Exports in 2021: $491 million

The Republic of Poland is a Central European country. It is also a strong player in the European beef industry and is a net meat exporter. Poland has several unique beef cuts, which include Antrykot, Polędwica, Ogonek Dolnej Zrazowa, and Rozbef. One of Poland’s largest beef producers is the Cedrob Group, and others include Mitmar Sp Zoo, Agraimpex, and Agrofood Poland Chmielnicki, Ferenc Sp.J. Poland exported $1.3 billion of fresh beef and $491 million of frozen beef in 2021. However, its largest meat export was fowl meat.

10. Republic of Ireland

Frozen Bovine Meat Exports in 2021: $591 million

The Republic of Ireland is a European country, with the third highest – and often controversial – GDP per capita in the world. The country’s vast green lands also make it suitable for raising cattle, which helps it with producing beef. Some of the most popular beef cow types in the country are Charolais, Angus, Limousin, Hereford, and Belgian Blue. Ireland’s largest beef companies include Dawn Meats, Hilton Foods, Kepak, and Dunbia. Alongside exporting $591 million of frozen beef, Ireland was the world’s fifth largest exporter of fresh beef, with total exports of $1.9 billion.

9. Canada

Frozen Bovine Meat Exports in 2021: $625 million

Canada is a North American developed country. Its beef industry benefits from the fact that Canada is also one of the world’s largest grain producers, which enables a steady diet for the cattle. Canada has a total of thirteen beef grades, which categorize the meat based on its fat content, age, and muscle content. Four grades, A, AA, AAA, and Prime account for the bulk of Canadian beef production. Some of the largest beef companies in the country are Olymel LP, JBS Food Canada ULC, and Sobeys Group Inc. Canada was the world’s fourth largest fresh beef exporter in 2021, with 90% of exports headed to the U.S.

8. Republic of Paraguay

Frozen Bovine Meat Exports in 2021: $769 million

The Republic of Paraguay is a landlocked South American country. Agriculture and electricity play a dominant role in its export earnings, with food and meats accounting for more than 30% of the exports. Most of Paraguay’s beef and cattle are Brangus and Brafords, with Brazilian breeds making up another large chunk. Some beef companies are Dhd S.A., Frigorifico Concepcion S.A., and Cooperativa Colonizadora Multiactiva Fernheim Ltda.

7. Argentine Republic

Frozen Bovine Meat Exports in 2021: $1.98 billion 

The Argentine Republic, or simply Argentina, is a South American country that is the second largest in the region. Frozen beef forms roughly 4% of its total exports, and unlike some other countries, has a higher share than fresh beef. Argentina exported a whopping $1.9 billion of frozen beef in 2021, more than twice its fresh beef exports. Nearly all of these (85%) went to China. Some beef companies are Alimentos Magros S.A., Frigorífico Cagnoli S.A., and Rolly Beef S.A. Fueled by Chinese demand, Argentina is one of the largest beef exporters on the globe.

6. Oriental Republic of Uruguay

Frozen Bovine Meat Exports in 2021: $1.99 billion

The Oriental Republic of Uruguay is another South American country that is also one of the most peaceful nations in the region. Beef is a central part of its economy and the largest export. One of the best Uruguayan beef cuts is the colita de cuadril. Frozen beef exports were Uruguay’s largest meat exports in 2021, with fresh beef coming in at a distant second place with $396 million in exports. China imported 72% of frozen beef, with the U.S. accounting for 10% of imports.