U.S. beef exports slowed slightly in April, when compared to the all-time record highs of the previous month, but still performed well above last year’s pace. Exports for the month totaled 227.5 million pounds valued at $429.7 million – an increase of 38 percent, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), a contractor of the beef checkoff.

On a cumulative basis through April, 2011 beef exports were up 30 percent in volume to 881.3 million pounds and 48 percent in value to $1.63 billion. 

Beef exports equated to $203.70 per head of fed slaughter in April, up nearly $63.00 (or 45 percent) from April 2010. For the year, exports equate to $190.80 per head. April exports equaled 14.5 percent of total U.S. production compared to 11.2 percent last year. For the year, the U.S. beef industry has exported 13.7 percent of total production.

“With our production cost running so high right now, these strong export numbers could not come at a better time for producers,” said USMEF Chairman Keith Miller, a farmer-stockman from Great Bend, Kan. “I am convinced there is just no way we could be profitable without the outstanding premiums we’re receiving in the international marketplace.”

Beef exports to South Korea continued to grow dramatically during the first four months of 2011, increasing more than 150 percent over the same period in 2010 to 144.9 million pounds valued at $283.9 million. Korea made a strong push to become the leading value market for U.S. beef, and now trails only Mexico.

Beef demand in Mexico continues to make a solid recovery, with U.S. exports up 7 percent in volume (181.9 million) and 27 percent in value ($313.3 million) over last year. Canada remains in third place in both volume (122 million pounds, up 15 percent) and value ($272.3, up 37 percent). But fourth-place Japan is closing fast with 97.8 million pounds valued at $245.2 million – up 66 percent in volume and 73 percent in value over last year.

Other market highlights include:

  • Despite ongoing social and political unrest, beef demand in the Middle East has not missed a beat – increasing 40 percent in volume (106.3 million pounds) and 61 percent in value ($94.7 million) over last year.
  • Export volume to Russia is steady with last year (44.1 million pounds) but value is up 10 percent to $52.2 million.
  • Exports to the Caribbean increased 12 percent in volume (21.1 million pounds) and 21 percent in value ($41.1 million), led by strong value growth in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.
  • Excellent muscle cut growth in Chile, Guatemala and Colombia, along with strong variety meat growth in Peru and Ecuador, pushed exports to Central and South America significantly higher. Exports to the region are up 51 percent in volume (18 million pounds) and 85 percent in value ($22.9 million) over last year.