Strong variety meat exports helped offset lower volumes for beef and pork muscle cuts in October, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

October beef exports were up 2 percent from a year ago to 109,858 metric tons (mt), while export value was a record-high $687.1 million – up 22 percent from a year ago. Muscle cut volume was down 2 percent to 76,472 mt, but still increased 19 percent in value to $596.5 million. Variety meat exports increased 14 percent in volume (33,386 mt) and 39 percent in value ($90.6 million).

For January through October, beef export volume was up 3 percent from a year ago to just over 1 million mt. Export value reached $5.87 billion – 15 percent ahead of last year’s record pace.

October pork exports were down 2 percent in volume (182,363 mt), but still achieved a 5 percent increase in value ($567.2 million). These results were also bolstered by strong variety meat exports, which were up 24 percent in volume (51,440 mt) and 23 percent in value ($101.9 million) from a year ago. Pork muscle cut exports were down 10 percent in volume (130,923 mt), but increased 2 percent in value to $465.3 million.

Through the first 10 months of 2014, pork export volume was 4 percent higher than a year ago at 1.83 million mt. Export value is on a record pace, up 13 percent to $5.61 billion.

USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng said that while the slowdown in muscle cut volumes is concerning, October results were solid overall.

“Although global demand for beef and pork muscle cuts remains strong, the U.S. industry is facing some headwinds,” Seng said. “Lower slaughter numbers have impacted available supply, and the U.S. dollar continues to strengthen relative to the currencies of a number of our key competitors and import customers. On the pork side, we continue to see large volumes of European product entering Asian markets at lower-than-normal prices. This is likely to continue until the EU’s trade impasse with Russia is resolved.”

Seng added that the October results serve as a reminder of the importance of variety meat exports to the U.S. meat and livestock industries.

“Strong demand for variety meat is very positive news for the industry because these products contribute significantly to the profitability of U.S. producers and processors,” Seng said. “USMEF has also heightened the focus on alternative muscle cuts in many of our educational workshops and seminars. Familiarizing buyers with these economically priced cuts has been helpful in addressing price and exchange rate concerns.”

Japan, Korea, Hong Kong drive beef export growth

October beef exports equated to 15 percent of total production and 11 percent of muscle cut production, compared to 13.5 percent and 11 percent, respectively, a year ago. For January through October, exports equated to 14 percent of total production and 11 percent for muscle cuts (up from 13 percent and 10 percent). Export value per head of fed slaughter was $321.28 in October (up $70 from a year ago) and $287.32 for January-October (up $42.80).

Exports to leading market Japan were exceptionally strong in October, increasing 25 percent in volume (22,586 mt) and 54 percent in value ($164 million). For January-October, exports totaled 206,879 mt (up 2 percent) valued at $1.33 billion (up 11 percent).

Other January-October beef highlights include:

  • Exports to South Korea were up 12 percent in volume (96,040 mt) and 41 percent in value ($674.9 million). October export volume was the largest of the year at 11,167 mt.
  • Exports to Hong Kong have already set a new annual value record of $898 million, easily surpassing the 2013 full-year total of $823.3 million. October export volume was the largest ever at 16,779 mt.
  • Led by strong growth in the Dominican Republic, exports to the Caribbean were up 20 percent in volume to 19,042 mt and 26 percent in value to $124 million – just short of the full-year value record ($127 million) set in 2012.

Pork exports to Mexico set new value record

October pork exports equated to 24 percent of total production, which was steady with last year, but just 18 percent of muscle cut production – down from 20 percent in October 2013. For January-October, exports equated to 27 percent of total production (up from 25.6 percent) and 22 percent for muscle cuts (up from 21.5 percent). Export value per head slaughtered was $56.99 in October (up 10 percent from a year ago) and $63.63 for January-October (up 19 percent)

Exports to leading volume market Mexico continue to shine, with January-October volume reaching 563,601 mt – up 12 percent from a year ago. Export value was up 35 percent to $1.3 billion – already breaking the full-year value record ($1.22 billion) set in 2013. Since USMEF launched efforts to bolster overall pork consumption in Mexico in 2011, demand has increased significantly and exports are on pace to set a new volume record for the third consecutive year.

“Mexico’s per capita pork consumption has increased an average of 3.3 percent in each of the past three years, and now exceeds 16 kilograms,” Seng explained. “So we feel this campaign has definitely enhanced the image of pork in the minds of consumers and had a very positive impact on demand.”

Other January-October pork highlights include:

  • After a down year in 2013, exports to Korea have rebounded. Export volume was up 42 percent to 108,187 mt, while value increased 64 percent to $345.4 million.
  • Led by export growth to Colombia, exports to the Central/South America region remain on a record pace, increasing 7 percent in volume (99,349 mt) and 19 percent in value ($277.4 million) from a year ago.
  • Muscle cut exports to leading value market Japan were down 4 percent in volume (328,338 mt) but value was steady with last year at $1.54 billion. As noted above, Japan is one of the markets in which large volumes of relatively inexpensive European pork have limited U.S. growth.

Lamb exports still trending upward

U.S. lamb exports continue to recover from a slow start in 2014, achieving a year-over-year increase for the fourth consecutive month. January-October exports were still down 15 percent in volume (8,956 mt) and 1 percent in value ($23.5 million), but posted solid growth in the Caribbean, the United Arab Emirates, Panama and the Philippines.

Lamb muscle cut exports were 5 percent below last year’s pace in volume (2,432 mt), but increased 7 percent in value to $14.3 million.

Complete January-October export totals for U.S. beef, pork and lamb are available from USMEF’s statistics webpage.