A new USDA report on food-import patterns from 1998 through 2007 shows that U.S. meat imports almost doubled during the 10-year period, reaching $5.4 billion in 2007. The report documents increases in imports of all types of meat and meat products.

Beef accounted for about 60 percent of all meat imports and pork accounted for 20 percent over the full period. Import trends change year to year based on animal health issues and other factors, and the report shows that in 1998, beef and pork accounted for 91 percent of all unprocessed meat imports. By 2007, that share dropped to 87 percent.

The composition also changed over time. Between 1998 and 2002, 70 percent of all unprocessed meat imports was beef and 22 percent was pork. Beef imports declined to 62 percent of unprocessed meat imports and pork imports rose to 27 percent due to trade restrictions imposed following the discovery of BSE in WashingtonState in 2003. But by 2007, beef imports recovered to about 65 percent of of unprocessed meat imports while pork dropped back to 22 percent.

Poultry represents a relatively small portion of U.S. meat imports, but the category experienced the fastest growth during the 10 years covered in the report.

Australia and Canada account for most of our beef imports, while Canada and Denmark are the primary exporters of swine meat into the United States. Nearly all imported poultry come from Canada. Argentina and Brazil supplied the bulk of U.S. processed meat imports, mostly beef products.

The value of U.S. imports of fish and seafood exceeded $10 billion in 2007, an increase of almost 60 percent from $6.8 billion in 1998. More than half of these imports were shellfish, such as lobster, shrimp, crab, oysters, and scallops. Fish was the next largest category and included cod, halibut, herring, mackerel, sea bass, sole, swordfish, trout, and others.

The value of U.S. dairy imports almost doubled, from $778 million in 1998 to $1.5 billion in 2007. Cheese accounted for 72 percent of the total value in 2007 and fluid milk for another 14 percent

Across all food imports, the report notes a major trend toward consumer-ready products. While bulk commodity imports grew at a rate of 14 percent between 1998 and 2007, consumer ready food products grew over 100 percent.

The full report is available online.