Muscle Cut Exports Strong in August; Variety Meats Trend Lower

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August exports of U.S. pork and beef muscle cuts were above last year's strong volumes, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Variety meat exports were lower than a year ago, due in part to the lack of available labor required to harvest and export some items. 

U.S. pork muscle cut exports in August were up 1% from a year ago, at 180,369 metric tons (mt), though value was down 11% at $448.7 million. Combined pork/pork variety meat exports were down 2% in volume (217,893 mt) and 10% lower in value ($528 million), USMEF says. U.S. pork exports remain on a record pace in 2020, with January-August muscle cut exports up 22% from a year ago to 1.68 million mt, valued at $4.45 billion (up 20%). Pork/pork variety meat exports were up 17% in volume at just under 2 million mt, with value up 18% to $5.13 billion.

Pork exports to Japan were higher year-over-year and exports to Vietnam set a new record for the second consecutive month, USMEF notes, while exports to Mexico and Colombia continued to show improvement, despite being lower than a year ago.

Beef muscle cut exports were the largest in more than a year at 89,148 MT, up 3.5% year-over-year, driven by record-large demand in South Korea and Taiwan. August muscle cut exports also set new records in China and Indonesia and beef exports to Canada continued to gain momentum. Combined beef/beef variety meat exports were 109,752 mt in August, down 4.5% from a year ago. Export value was $673.8 million, down 2% from a year ago but the highest since March, USMEF says.

For January to August, beef muscle cuts were 6% below last year’s pace in volume, and 9% lower in value. Exports for beef/beef variety cuts were down 8% and down 9% in value, according to USMEF.

"The upward trend in muscle cut exports is very encouraging and especially critical as beef and pork production continue to rebound from the interruptions earlier in the year," says USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom in the release. "Maintaining variety meat volumes has been especially challenging this year but we continue to expand and develop destinations for these items, which are essential to maximizing carcass value." 

Halstrom said COVID-19 continues to impact many countries, but the recovery in foodservice is well underway in China and Taiwan and there is progress in other main markets, including Japan and Korea. Even as foodservice activity increases, strong retail and online sales persist. 

"Record beef shipments to Korea, Taiwan and China show the kind of rebound U.S. beef can achieve as the foodservice sector gradually recovers and adapts, and we are excited to see demand strengthen further entering the fourth quarter," Halstrom says in the release. "Pork demand is also recovering in some of the regions hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions, and we see continued export growth in countries where domestic production has been impacted by African swine fever. U.S. pork is also making significant gains in Japan, including dramatic growth in ground seasoned pork and strong demand for chilled U.S. pork cuts in the regional retail sector." 

For additional data of January-August export results for U.S. beef, pork and lamb, including market-specific highlights, is available visit the USMEF website