Beef, Pork Exports Set New Records in 2012

US - US beef and pork exports set new value records in 2012, topping highs set in 2011, according to end-of-year statistics released by USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
calendar icon 13 February 2013
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The achievement was more significant in light of challenging export conditions that included non-science-based trade barriers in several key markets and an anemic economy in certain regions.

"The export markets are a critical profit center for the industry at a time when the industry is challenged by high input costs and, on the beef side, a historically low herd size," said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. "2012 saw record highs for per-head export values for both pork and beef at a time when those returns were sorely needed by producers."

Pork exports set both volume and value records last year, reaching 2.26 million mt – up a fraction from the record set in 2011 – valued at $6.3 billion, a 3.5 per cent increase over the prior year’s record.

The per-head export value of US pork exports set another record in 2012, reaching $55.87, up 1 per cent from 2011. For the year, exports accounted for 27 per cent of total pork production and 23.4 per cent of pork muscle cut production versus 27.5 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively, in 2011.

The value of beef exports for the year rose 2 per cent to a record-high $5.51 billion on 12 per cent lower volumes (1.13 million mt).

The per-head export value for beef hit $216.73, a $10.36 increase over 2011. Contributing to that was a new monthly record value of $242.65 set in December.

For the year, US beef exports accounted for 12.7 per cent of total beef production and 9.8 per cent of muscle cut production. This compares to 14.2 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively, in 2011.

Records Set in 2012

In addition to the new standards noted above, one-year export records were set in several key export markets:


  • Mexico: 600,949 mt (12 per cent increase) valued at $1.126 billion (8 per cent increase)
  • Canada: 235,604 mt (14 per cent increase) valued at $855.7 million (16 per cent increase)
  • Central/South America: 90,897 mt (26 per cent increase) valued at $227.9 million (22 per cent increase)
  • Australia/New Zealand: 76,801 mt (9 per cent increase) valued at $236.1 million (5 per cent increase)


  • Russia: 80,408 mt (10 per cent increase) valued at $307.5 million (20 per cent increase)
  • Hong Kong: 65,033 mt (28 per cent increase) valued at $339.5 million (43 per cent increase)
  • Central/South America: 33,891 mt (31 per cent increase) valued at $134.1 million (57 per cent increase)
  • Canada: $1.177 billion (14 value increase even though volume dipped 6 per cent to 180,015 mt)

Top 5 Value Export Markets for 2012


  • Japan – $1.986 billion
  • Mexico – $1.126 billion
  • China/Hong Kong – $886.2 million
  • Canada – $855.7 million
  • South Korea – $421.1 million


  • Canada – $1.177 billion
  • Japan – $1.03 billion (surpassing the $1 billion mark for the first time since 2003)
  • Mexico – $822.4 million
  • South Korea – $582 million
  • Hong Kong – $339.5 million

2013 Outlook

Looking ahead, the outlook for 2013 appears positive for both the US beef and pork industries, according to Mr Seng.

"There are many factors that go into projecting 12 months into the future, but as we continue to focus our efforts on markets that offer the greatest potential for growth, we are optimistic that 2013 will give us the opportunity to maintain the momentum we have seen in pork exports while rebounding in beef," he said. The recent opening of Japan to US beef under 30 months of age contributes to a projected growth in beef exports of 4 per cent in volume (to 1.17 million mt) valued at more than $6 billion. That total may be tempered if issues with exports to Russia are not resolved.

The projection for pork calls for steady to slight growth, with exports likely to still exceed 2.2 million mt valued at more than $6 billion with key risk factors including Russia and domestic production in China. On the bullish side, US pork is an extremely versatile, high quality protein at a great value that will gain market share in key export markets. Continued growth to top volume market Mexico is also expected to boost the bottom line.

Other Facts of Note

December pork exports were 186,135 mt, down 14 per cent in volume and 11 per cent in value at $515.9 million versus the high year-ago levels. December export volume was still larger year-over-year to Canada, Central/South America and Australia.

December beef exports were down 16 per cent versus the prior year at 90,789 mt while value was down just 3 per cent at $461.2 million. Export gains were seen for the month in Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong, Philippines and Central/South America.

2012 Lamb Exports

2012 was a challenging year for the global lamb industry, including leaders New Zealand and Australia, and it was no different in the United States. For the year, US lamb exports dipped 29 per cent in volume and 13 per cent in value versus 2011’s record high. However, exports to the top two markets, Mexico and Canada, both registered increases in value, offering promise for the year ahead.

Another key factor in reversing the recent decline in lamb exports will be gaining access to markets such as Japan, Russia, Taiwan, Korea and the European Union. These are critical destinations in which a resumption of trade could present promising opportunities for US lamb, especially in the foodservice sector. USMEF is working with trade officials to facilitate that.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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