U.S. meat export demand remains strong

The U.S. still has plenty of opportunities to ship red meat around the world despite some recent headwinds.

That was a key message from John Hinners, senior vice president of industry relations for the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), during a meeting with members of the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.

“The opportunities we see for demand are really good, not only domestically, but internationally,” Hinners told the RFD Radio Network at the event. “Post-COVID food service is rebounding and global tourism has rebounded.”

U.S. pork exports increased 9% the first three quarters this year compared to the same period in 2022 to 2.13 million metric tons. Those sales were valued at nearly $6 billion, up 7% compared to last year.

The growth in pork exports was led by sales to Mexico, up 13% from last year’s record pace, and valued at $1.68 billion.

“Mexico has been critical to the U.S. pork industry,” Hinners said. “Consumption by consumers in Mexico has gone up substantially over the years.”

About 50% of the pork consumed in Mexico comes from the U.S.

Elsewhere, robust growth in leading markets Honduras and Guatemala boosted September pork exports to Central America by 34% compared to last year.

“When you look at Central and South America, markets that were really quite small for the U.S. 15 years ago, and you add a trade agreement here or there and you start introducing corn-fed beef and pork in some of these markets, slowly but surely you get a homerun with red meats there.”

U.S. beef exports also remain strong, but not at the same level as last year. Beef exports from January through September totaled 980,100 metric tons (down 13% from last year) valued at $7.49 billion (down 18%).

Key growth markets for U.S. beef sales include Africa, Canada and Indonesia.

Elsewhere, beef exports to China decreased so far this year compared to 2022 but remain vital to U.S. farmers.

“China is very important to the beef complex,” Hinners said. “It’s one of our key markets and one of three that constitutes over $2 billion.”

Some of the key headwinds for U.S. meat exports this year include a strong value of the dollar, a reduction of the U.S. cattle herd, transportation disruptions and trade barriers.

Minimizing disruptions in the transportation sector is critical to U.S. meat exports as fresh products are much more valuable than frozen products, Hinners noted.

What do exports return to U.S. farmers? U.S. pork export value equated to $63.16 per head through the first three quarters this year, up 5% from 2022, while beef exports added $396.03 to the value per head during the same time, according to USMEF.