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Record-Breaking Year for Red Meat Exports Underscores Importance of Trade Agreements

Published: Feb 14, 2022
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U.S. red meat exports reached unprecedented levels in 2021, with export value totaling $18.7 billion. Trade agreements played a major role in this success story, explains U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Economist Erin Borror. She notes that the greatly reduced tariff rates achieved in the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) helped boost U.S. beef exports to new heights, the U.S.-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement cleared the way for a sharp increase in beef shipments to China and the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement restored a level tariff playing field for U.S. beef. In the Western Hemisphere, beef exports benefited greatly from duty-free access to FTA partners such as Central America, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Peru and Chile.

U.S. pork exports to Mexico were record-large in 2021, capitalizing on duty-free access achieved through NAFTA and solidified by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Pork shipments also soared to Central America and rebounded impressively in Colombia, even with pork cuts commanding higher prices. Zero-duty access under KORUS helped the United States become the largest supplier of chilled pork to Korea and, similar to beef, the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement bolstered U.S. pork's position in the highly competitive Japanese market. For example, Japan's tariff rate on U.S. ground seasoned pork – a key ingredient in sausages processed and sold in Japan – had been 20% but will decline to zero by 2025.

A detailed summary of the 2021 red meat export results is available from the USMEF website.


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The U.S. Meat Export Federation ( is the trade association responsible for developing international markets for the U.S. red meat industry. It is funded by USDA; the beef, pork, lamb, corn and soybean checkoff programs, as well as its members representing nine industry sectors: beef/veal producing & feeding, pork producing & feeding, lamb producing & feeding, packing & processing, purveying & trading, oilseeds producing, feedgrains producing, farm organizations and supply & service organizations. USMEF complies with all equal opportunity, non-discrimination and affirmative action measures applicable to it by contract, government rule or regulation or as otherwise provided by law. USMEF is an equal opportunity employer and provider.