U.S. beef imports from Mexico have at least doubled in each of the last 2 years, continuing an upward trend that began in 2003 (fig. 1). The impetus for the increased imports is beef from Mexican Tipo Inspección Federal (TIF) plants and increased production of grain-fed beef, the quality and type of beef U.S. consumers prefer. The increase in coarse grain domestic feed use in Mexico, in addition to increased exports of U.S. feed and distillers’ grains, is evidence of the shift toward fed beef in Mexico.
Beef imports from Mexico in 2010 totaled 107 million pounds, making Mexico the fifth largest exporter of beef to the United States. Through November 2011, imports of beef from Mexico increased by 46 percent over the same period in 2010. The majority of beef imported by the United States from all sources is processing beef, which is mixed with trim for grinding in the United States. Over the last 10 years, on average over 86 percent of beef imports to the United States have been boneless, fresh, or frozen meat cuts, much of which is used in processing. This category of imports has increased from Mexico—by nearly 88 percent in 2010—but is paralleled by increasing imports of bone-in beef cuts as well. Of the bone-in beef cuts imported to the United States in 2010, which excluded processed fresh beef, nearly 42 percent were supplied by Mexico. However, it is notable that beef imports from Mexico still serve a very small portion of overall US beef consumption1.
There are two reasons for the increasing exports of Mexican beef to the United States: (1) an increase in the number of TIF plants in Mexico (federally inspected slaughter plants meeting standards similar to those in the United States), and (2) an increase in production of grain-fed beef in Mexico, the quality of beef that most often meets the tastes and preferences of U.S. consumers. For meat to be moved across State borders in Mexico or to be exported to the United States, it must be inspected at the Federal level. When the Mexican inspection program began 60 years ago, 15 TIF establishments were operational; that number has grown to 365 TIF plants in 27 States in Mexico, rising almost exponentially in the past few years. In 2010, 75 TIF slaughter establishments were certified, including some preexisting facilities that were converted to adhere to TIF standards. These efforts are being driven by initiatives in Mexico to produce higher quality meat products, become more competitive in the global marketplace, and capture gains from exports. The Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) announced this year that another 100 active slaughter establishments will become certified TIF plants (http://www.sagarpa.gob.mx/saladeprensa/boletines2/Paginas/2011B600.aspx). Through October 2011, Mexico exported beef products valued at $452 million, with 60 percent of that earned from beef sent to the United States.
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