Background Banner

Beef Export Value Shatters Annual Record; Pork Exports Still on Record Pace

Published: Dec 08, 2021

October was another strong month for U.S. red meat exports as beef export value continued to soar, according to data released by USDA and compiled by USMEF. October pork exports were below last year's large total but year-to-date shipments remained slightly above the record pace of 2020.

Beef exports reached 115,709 metric tons (mt) in October, up 7.5% from a year ago, while export value climbed 48% to $956.9 million – the second-highest total on record, behind August 2021. Through the first 10 months of the year, beef exports totaled 1.19 million mt, up 17% from a year ago. Export value increased 38% to $8.53 billion, surpassing the 2018 record ($8.33 billion) with two months to spare.

Pork exports totaled 226,206 mt in October, down 7% from a year ago, while export value slipped 3.5% to $618.8 million. For January through October, pork exports were up slightly from a year ago in volume (2.47 million mt) and increased 8% in value ($6.84 billion).

"USMEF has always prioritized market diversification, and this is more critical than ever now that the red meat industry faces unprecedented transportation challenges and rising input costs," said President and CEO Dan Halstrom. "Exports will likely reach about $18 billion in 2021, which is a remarkable achievement. While global demand is tremendous and we are cautiously optimistic about further growth in 2022, supply chain pressures are not easy to overcome and are a growing concern for exporters and their international customers."

Broad-based growth puts beef exports on $10 billion pace

U.S. beef exports will top $2 billion this year in each of three key Asian markets – South Korea, Japan and China/Hong Kong. Korea and Japan are already knocking on the door, with exports through October exceeding $1.9 billion.

October beef exports to Korea increased 13% from a year ago to 21,934 mt, while value soared 57% to $212.4 million. Through October, exports were also up 13% to 235,260 mt and increased 32% in value to $1.93 billion. This growth included a 50% increase in chilled beef export value ($831 million), with chilled volume up 23% to 71,860 mt, despite ongoing social distancing restrictions impacting the foodservice sector. Restrictions were eased in November but have been largely reinstated since the emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Japan remains the leading volume destination for U.S. beef, with October exports up slightly from a year ago to 23,435 mt while value climbed 35% to $198.7 million. Through October, exports were 5% ahead of last year's pace in volume (269,815 mt) and 19% higher in value ($1.92 billion). Growth to Japan included a 15% increase in chilled beef (to 130,551 mt), valued at $1.13 billion (up 24%) on continued strong retail demand. Japan recently eased many of its COVID-related restrictions on restaurants including resumption of alcohol sales, though restaurant traffic remains significantly impacted by the pandemic.

Beef exports to China continue to capitalize on the market access gains achieved in the Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement, with October exports up nearly 150% from a year ago to 16,815 mt and more than tripling in value to $148.1 million. Through October, exports to China increased more than 500% in volume (154,857 mt) and more than 600% in value ($1.26 billion). As China’s largest supplier of grain-fed beef, the U.S. accounted for 10% of China’s imports on a value basis and 6% of import volume. Exports to the combined China/Hong Kong market have already far exceeded previous annual records, reaching 198,409 mt (up 114% from a year ago) valued at $1.69 billion (up 135%).

Other January-October highlights for U.S. beef exports include:

  • Although October exports to Mexico were below last year's volume at 15,841 mt, value still increased 29% to $93.1 million. Through October, shipments to Mexico surpassed last year's low totals by 14% in volume (163,560 mt) and 39% in value ($861.1 million). Mexico is the largest volume destination for U.S. beef variety meat, with exports increasing 11% to 78,647 mt and posting strong value growth at $211.2 million (up 20%).
  • Beef exports to Taiwan have edged lower in 2021 at 51,948 mt (down 4%) but are still on a record value pace at $532 million (up 16%). Chilled exports were up 22% to 26,921 mt, valued at $351 million (up 37%). The U.S. continues to dominate Taiwan's imports of higher-value chilled beef, capturing more than 80% market share.
  • Led by very strong growth in Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama, beef exports to Central America have already surpassed previous annual records, climbing 60% from a year ago to 17,713 mt and surging 90% in value ($107.9 million). Exports to top market Guatemala were 6,551 mt through October, up 42% from a year ago, valued at $49 million (up 80%) and already surpassing the 2019 record. October exports of beef muscle cuts were record-large to Costa Rica and Honduras and the third highest on record to Guatemala.
  • A strong rebound in Chile and excellent growth in Colombia and Peru drove beef exports to South America 29% above last year's pace at 25,885 mt, while value climbed 79% to $141.2 million. Colombia’s exports have nearly surpassed the 2019 annual record and October exports were record-large at 1,359 mt.
  • Beef exports to the Dominican Republic increased 83% from a year ago to 6,375 mt, with value more than doubling to $59.6 million (up 110%). October exports reached a record 1,046 mt.
  • Beef export value per head of fed slaughter equated to $439.46 in October, up 55% from a year ago. The January-October average was $394.14, up 34%. October exports accounted for 14.3% of total beef production and 12.4% for muscle cuts only, up from 12.7% and 10.8%, respectively, in October 2020. For January through October these ratios were 15% and 12.8%, each up nearly two full percentage points from a year ago.


Record shipments to Mexico and Colombia bolster October pork exports

Pork exports to Mexico continued to strengthen in October as shipments reached a new monthly high of 83,929 mt, up 38% from a year ago, while value increased 37% to $143.8 million. Through October, exports to Mexico increased 28% to 707,157 mt, valued at $1.38 billion (up 55%). Exports are also ahead of the record pace established in 2017, when full-year shipments to Mexico exceeded 800,000 mt and topped $1.5 billion in value.

Although China's demand for pork muscle cuts has softened significantly, it remains a critical, value-adding destination for U.S. pork variety meat. Through October, pork variety meat exports to the China/Hong Kong region were 22% above last year's large totals at 284,568 mt and climbed 27% in value to $685.9 million. Total pork exports to China/Hong Kong were down 24% from a year ago in volume (661,637 mt) and 22% lower in value ($1.5 billion).

Led by strong demand in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica, pork exports to Central America continued to shine in October, reaching 12,445 mt (up 41% from a year ago) valued at $36.3 million (up 71%). Through the first 10 months of 2021, exports to the region have already set annual records at 110,992 mt (up 47% year-over-year) valued at $299.3 million (up 64%).

Other January-October highlights for U.S. pork exports include:

  • Following a down year in 2020, pork exports to Colombia have rebounded dramatically. October exports set a new monthly record of 11,752 mt, pushing January-October exports 59% above last year at 82,657 mt. Export value reached $201.1 million, up 79%. This is roughly even with the pre-COVID record volume pace of 2019, while 2021 value is nearly 20% higher.
  • Exports to Korea have trended higher in 2021 and climbed significantly in value, driven in part by strong retail demand for chilled pork. Through October, chilled U.S. exports to Korea were up 106% from a year ago to 8,776 mt, valued at $53.5 million (up 135%). Overall exports through October were up 5% to 138,493 mt, with value up 20% to $453.7 million.
  • Although pork exports to Japan took a step back in October, shipments through the first 10 months of the year were still up 3% from a year ago to 329,657 mt, valued at $1.4 billion (up 5%). This included a 5% increase in chilled pork (177,818 mt, valued at $866 million).
  • In the Dominican Republic, U.S. exports were already trending higher before domestic pork production was impacted by recent findings of African swine fever. Exports were strong again in October and through the first 10 months of the year posted increases of 47% in volume (47,422 mt) and 70% in value ($122.7 million), exceeding previous annual records.
  • Pork export value per head slaughtered equated to $55.83 in October, up 5% from a year ago. The January-October average was $64.10, up 10%. October exports accounted for 26.5% of total pork production, up from 26% a year ago, while the percentage of muscle cuts exported increased slightly to 23.3%. The January-October export ratios were 30% (up from 29.2%) of total pork production and 26.5% (steady with 2020) for muscle cuts.

October lamb export value highest in nearly two years

Fueled by growth in leading market Mexico, as well as in the Caribbean and Singapore, October exports of U.S. lamb totaled 1,075 mt (up 56% from a year ago) and reached $1.95 million in value – also up 56% and the highest since January 2020. Through October, lamb exports increased 8% to 11,020 mt valued at $15.9 million (up 15%). Muscle cut exports increased 11% to 1,124 mt, valued at $6.9 million (up 21%).

Complete January-October export results for U.S. pork, beef and lamb are available from USMEF's statistics web page.

For questions, please contact Joe Schuele or call 303-547-0030.


  • Export statistics refer to both muscle cuts and variety meat, unless otherwise noted.
  • One metric ton (mt) = 2,204.622 pounds.
  • U.S. pork currently faces retaliatory duties in China. China's duty rate on frozen pork muscle cuts and variety meat increased from 12% to 37% in April 2018, from 37% to 62% in July 2018 and from 62% to 72% on Sept. 1, 2019.
  • U.S. beef faces retaliatory duties in China. China's duty rate on beef muscle cuts and variety meats increased from 12% to 37% in July 2018 and from 37% to 47% on Sept. 1, 2019. It was reduced to 42% on Feb. 14, 2020.
  • In February 2020, China announced a duty exclusion process that allows importers to apply for relief from duties imposed in response to U.S. Section 301 duties. When an application is successful, the rate for U.S. beef can decline to the MFN rate of 12% and the rate for U.S. pork can decline to 33% for muscle cuts and 37% for pork offal (the 25% Section 232 retaliatory duty on U.S. pork remains).