Through the first two months of 2013, U.S. beef exports are 7 percent ahead of last year’s record value pace, despite volume being down 2 percent. U.S. pork exports, which set records for both volume and value in 2012, are running behind last year’s pace by 8 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

(NOTE: these figures include both muscle cuts and variety meat.)

Complete export results are available at the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) statistics web page.

USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng explains that trade barriers played a major role in shaping these results, including Russia’s crackdown on beta agonists and new documentation requirements imposed on pork exports to China. He also notes that while expanded access for U.S. beef exports to Japan officially took effect Feb. 1, the impact of this change will be more prominent in the March results.

One of the best-performing markets during the first two months of the year was Canada, where U.S. beef exports already topped the $200 million mark and pork exports totaled $130.6 million. While U.S. meat exports to Canada are not often in the spotlight, Canada finished 2012 as the No. 1 value destination for U.S. beef ($1.18 billion) and ranked No. 4 for U.S. pork ($855.7 million). Seng says this underscores the importance of finding a solution to the ongoing country-of-origin labeling (COOL) dispute with both Canada and Mexico, where combined red meat export value was more than $4 billion* last year.

(*NOTE: Mexico ranked No. 3 in U.S. beef export value in 2012 at $822.4 million and was No. 2 in pork export value at $1.13 billion. It was also the leading volume destination for both products. Combined lamb exports to Mexico and Canada totaled more than $18 million.)

Comments on USDA’s proposed COOL revisions are due April 11 and the United States faces a May 23 deadline for bringing these regulations into compliance with World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations.