With strong numbers in September, U.S. beef exports broke the $5 billion value mark during the first three quarters of the year, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), a contractor to the beef checkoff.

Year-on-year beef exports in September increased 6 percent in volume to 220 million pounds and skyrocketed 25 percent in value to $631.9 million. For year-to-date through September, beef exports rose 3 percent in volume to nearly 2 billion pounds and 15 percent in value to $5.18 billion.

“These are impressive results, especially given the headwinds we faced in September – including a very strong U.S. dollar and a significant decline in beef production,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “It was just three years ago that U.S. beef exports eclipsed the $5 billion mark for the first time in an entire calendar year, so it’s very gratifying to see our industry reach this milepost by the end of the third quarter.”

Beef exports surge despite lower slaughter numbers

With herd rebuilding gaining traction in the U.S. beef industry, fed slaughter numbers have trended lower. Still, the value of exports in September reached $313.67 per head of fed slaughter – down from the record set in August, but 26 percent higher than September 2013. For January through September, per-head export value was $283.29 – up nearly $40 from the same period last year. Exports equated to 14 percent of total beef production and 11 percent for muscle cuts only – up from 13 percent and 10 percent, respectively, last year.

Market leader Japan was the pacesetter for September beef exports, with volume to Japan climbing 36 percent year-on-year to 51.1 million pounds and value up 55 percent to $155.7 million. For January through September, exports to Japan were steady in volume at 406.3 million pounds and 7 percent higher in value to $1.17 billion.

Other January-September beef export highlights include:

  • Exports to Hong Kong were up 26 percent in volume to 234.6 million pounds and 45 percent in value to $768.3 million.

  • Export volume to South Korea was up 12 percent to 187.1 million pounds while value soared 41 percent to $590.5 million.

  • The summer surge in exports to Taiwan moderated in September, but the market remains on a record pace in both volume, which is up more than 9 percent to 56.1 million pounds, and value, up 16 percent to $215.1 million.

  • Exports to Mexico were up 19 percent in volume to 394.2 million pounds and up 34 percent in value to $860.8 million. (As USMEF has previously noted, however, data from early 2013 may have understated last year’s exports to Mexico.)