U.S. beef exports remained 11 percent lower in volume through the first eight months of 2012 at 759,901 metric tons, but beef export value was still 2 percent above last year’s record pace. Export value per head of fed slaughter was up about 6 percent from last year to $212.05.

According to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the slump in U.S. red meat export volume continued in August, but the value of beef and pork exports remains slightly ahead of last year.

U.S. beef exports in August were the second largest of the year at 100,468 metric tons, but this was still 14 percent below the August 2011 volume. In value, August exports totaled $486.2 million. While 5 percent lower than a year ago, it was also the second-highest monthly total of 2012.

“We face a challenging business climate in several key markets, with rising production costs and slowing economic growth creating some anxiety among buyers,” said USMEF president and CEO Philip Seng. “We’re also seeing a surge in domestic meat supplies in some areas, particularly in South Korea. But the commitment to enhancing global demand for U.S. beef and pork remains very strong, as evidenced by the terrific support of our producer organizations. These are the circumstances in which effective global marketing takes on an even greater level of importance, as producers need to maximize the value of every cut and every carcass.”

January-August beef exports accounted for 9.8 percent of muscle-cut production and 12.7 percent when including variety meat — down from last year’s ratios of 11 percent and 14.2 percent, respectively.

Beef exports to Japan during August were up 20 percent in volume (17,588 metric tons) from last year and increased 48 percent in value to $119.3 million. Through August, 2012 exports to Japan were steady with last year in volume at 108,720 metric tons but 23 percent higher in value at $719.5 million.

“While the timeline is uncertain, we remain hopeful that a broader supply of U.S. beef will soon be eligible for Japan,” Seng said. “This is more critical than ever as demand for U.S. beef is extremely strong. In addition to the traditional forequarter cuts and short plates, and other items such as beef tongue, our key buyers in Japan have a growing interest in middle meats and very high-end cuts. Demand for Prime and higher-level Choice cuts is very promising.”

Though exports to Canada were down 15 percent in volume through August (111,372 metric tons), export value remained 4 percent above last year’s record pace at $736.5 million.