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February Pork Exports Remain Robust; Strong Month for Beef Export Value

Published: Apr 06, 2024

Fueled by growth in the Western Hemisphere, South Korea and Australia, U.S. pork exports posted another excellent performance in February, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). Beef export volume was slightly lower year-over-year, but export value climbed by 10%. 

February pork exports increased 14% from a year ago to 250,930 metric tons (mt), while value jumped 15% to $685.1 million. Through the first two months of 2024, exports increased 10% in both volume (502,354 mt) and value ($1.37 billion). 

“Coming off a record value year, it’s great to see broad-based momentum for pork exports continue globally into 2024,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “While Mexico is certainly at the forefront, we are seeing excellent growth in markets like Colombia, Chile, El Salvador and the Caribbean, and demand has rebounded impressively in Korea and Australia.” 

Beef exports reached 103,883 mt in February, down 1% from a year ago, but export value increased 10% to $830.4 million. January-February exports were also down 1% to 203,647 mt, with export value climbing 9% to $1.59 billion. 

“Tight beef supplies are definitely a challenge for exporters, and that situation isn’t going to change anytime soon,” Halstrom said. “But on a positive note, we are seeing more opportunities for underutilized beef cuts, including the round, shoulder clod and variety meat, in the global marketplace. Demand is strong throughout the Western Hemisphere and the foodservice and hospitality sectors are finally gaining some momentum in key Asian markets such as Korea, where the post-COVID recovery has been slower than anticipated.” 

Mexico still the pacesetter, but pork export growth widespread

Pork exports to leading market Mexico remained on a remarkable roll in February, increasing 21% from a year ago to 94,272 mt – the eighth highest on record – while value jumped 22% to $189.5 million. Through February, shipments to Mexico totaled 196,453 mt, 12% above last year’s record pace, while value increased 15% to $396.8 million. 

Demand for U.S. pork continues to rebound in Korea, where shipments have accelerated significantly since late 2023. February exports reached 21,217 mt, soaring 71% above last year, while export value increased 74% to $69.3 million. Through February, exports to Korea increased 61% in volume (41,944 mt) and 62% in value ($137 million).

Pork exports to South America are off to a strong start in 2024. February shipments increased 58% from a year ago to 13,132 mt, while value climbed 65% to $37.9 million. Through February, exports to the region increased 56% to 24,596 mt, valued at just under $70 million. Exports to Colombia came on strong in the fourth quarter of 2023 and that momentum has continued, with January-February exports up 56% in volume (21,710 mt) and 70% in value ($59.5 million).  February exports to Colombia were the fourth highest on record at 11,262 mt, up 56% year-over-year, valued at $31.4 million (up 71%). January-February shipments to Chile climbed 87% to 2,317 mt, with value also up 70% to $8 million. 

Other January-February results for U.S. pork exports include: 

  • Led by outstanding growth in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama, pork exports to Central America remain very strong. Through the first two months of the year, shipments to the region were 17% above last year at 24,055 mt, valued at $72.4 million – up 26% from the record value pace of 2023. Export volume to leading markets Honduras and Guatemala were modestly lower through February, though export value still trended higher. 

  • Last year’s pork export growth to the Caribbean was mostly driven by the Dominican Republic, where shipments set an annual record. Exports to the DR have remained strong in 2024, but have pulled back to some degree from last year’s large volumes. However, demand from other Caribbean destinations pushed January-February exports 3% above last year’s pace at 22,328 mt, valued at $63 million (up 2%), with growth led by Trinidad and Tobago, the Leeward-Windward Islands, Cuba and the Netherlands Antilles.   

  • January-February pork exports to Australia more than tripled from a year ago, climbing 232% to 17,553 mt, valued at $62.9 million (up 229%). Due to import restrictions, most U.S. pork shipped to Australia is raw material for further processing, but value-added processed U.S. products have also gained traction in the market. 

  • Malaysia continues to emerge as a promising growth market for U.S. pork. Through February, shipments to Malaysia totaled 844 mt, up 848% over last year’s low volumes. Export value increased 734% to $2.5 million. 

  • Despite the persistently weak yen and other economic headwinds, pork exports to Japan have held fairly steady in 2024. Through February, exports were 1% below last year’s pace in both volume (56,234 mt) and value ($228.3 million). 

  • January-February exports of pork variety meat were 5% above last year’s record pace at 100,192 mt, though value fell 3% to $215.4 million. Volume growth was led by Mexico, Canada, the Philippines, Korea, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Japan, offsetting a decline in demand from China. 

  • February pork export value equated to $62.37 per head slaughtered, up 4% from a year ago. The January-February average was $61.16 per head, also up 4%. Exports accounted for 29.4% of total February pork production and 25.4% for muscle cuts, up from 28.3% and 23.8%, respectively, last February. The January-February ratios were 28.8% of total production and 24.8% for muscle cuts, each about one percentage point higher than a year ago. 

Beef export value climbs in many key regions

Mexico continues to be bright spot for U.S. beef exports, with February shipments climbing 27% from a year ago to 19,760 mt. Export value soared 32% to $120.5 million – the seventh highest on record. Through February, exports to Mexico increased 21% in volume (39,871 mt) and 25% in value ($233.3 million), including impressive growth for both muscle cuts and variety meat. Bolstered by the strong peso, Mexico’s demand for U.S. beef has strengthened at both foodservice and retail. 

While February beef export volume to Korea was lower than a year ago (down 7% to 18,074 mt), export value climbed 12% to $172.3 million. January-February exports followed a similar trend, falling 4% to 36,863 mt while value increased 12% to $342.8 million. The Korean government recently announced measures aimed at easing food price increases, which have been especially sharp for fruits and vegetables. Rising prices have made Korea’s post-COVID foodservice recovery even more challenging, but U.S. beef continues to find success in the home meal replacement and restaurant meal replacement segments.

February beef exports to the Caribbean were the largest on record at 2,955 mt, up 25% from a year ago, while value was fourth highest at $24.5 million (up 24%). Exports to the Dominican Republic were the fifth highest on record in both volume (993 mt, up 22%) and value ($10.8 million, up 40%). Through February, shipments to the Caribbean increased 20% from a year ago in volume (5,639 mt) and 15% in value ($45.3 million), led by muscle cut growth in the Netherlands Antilles and the Leeward-Windward Islands and strong variety meat demand in Trinidad and Tobago. 

Other January-February results for U.S. beef exports include: 

  • After a slow January, beef exports to Taiwan improved significantly in February, climbing 15% from a year ago (and 58% from January) to 5,091 mt. Export value was $56.3 million, up 36% from a year ago and 56% higher than in January. The U.S. is Taiwan’s dominant supplier of chilled beef, and USMEF continues to familiarize importers, distributors and consumers with alternative cuts that offer a high-quality dining experience at affordable prices. 

  • Led by a rebound in Egypt’s demand for beef livers and strong muscle cut growth in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain, exports to the Middle East increased 48% from a year ago through February, reaching 9,220 mt. Export value climbed 52% to $39.3 million. While safety concerns in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden have not dramatically impacted U.S. beef volumes entering the region, the situation has increased shipping costs and transit times and heightened buyers’ concerns about product availability. 

  • Beef exports to South America climbed 23% from a year ago through February, reaching 3,734 mt, while value increased 8% to $18.9 million. Muscle cut exports to Colombia had slowed the previous month but rebounded in February, while beef variety meat demand strengthened in both Peru and Chile. 

  • Fueled by growth in Guatemala and Panama, January-February beef exports to Central America increased 16% from a year ago to 3,957 mt. Export value climbed 15% to $27.2 million.  

  • February beef exports to China were slightly below last year in volume (15,219 mt, down 2%) but still trended higher in value at $133.8 million (up 2%). Through February, exports to China were down 7% to just under 27,000 mt, with value down 2% to $235.9 million. After a 2023 rebound, beef exports to Hong Kong continue to strengthen this year, with January-February exports up 13% in volume (5,655 mt) and 35% in value ($65.9 million). 

  • While Japan is the leading volume destination for U.S. beef in 2024, exports through February were down 11% year-over-year to 41,280 mt. Export value was down 2% to $301.2 million. Beef variety meats – mostly tongues and skirts – are a bright spot in Japan, with export volume up 4% to 7,284 mt and value climbing 22% to just under $10 million. 

  • January-February exports of beef variety meat totaled 46,381 mt, up 8% from a year ago, while value climbed 10% to $177.4 million. In addition to the aforementioned growth in Mexico, Japan, Egypt, Peru, Chile and Trinidad and Tobago, volumes also trended higher to China, Korea, Canada, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, Morocco, Guatemala and El Salvador. 

  • February beef export value equated to $412.79 per head of fed slaughter, up 5% from a year ago. The January-February average was $385.78 per head, up 7%. Exports accounted for 14% of total February beef production and 11.6% for muscle cuts, down from 14.6% and 12.4%, respectively, in February 2023. The January-February ratios were 13.3% of total production (down from 13.6% a year ago) and 11.1% for muscle cuts (down from 11.6%). 

February lamb exports well above year-ago totals

U.S. lamb exports followed a strong January with another robust performance in February, climbing 11% from a year ago to 270 mt. Export value increased 18% to $1.5 million. Through February, lamb exports increased 19% from a year ago to 573 mt, with value up 34% to $3.2 million, led by growth in the Bahamas, the Leeward-Windward Islands and Canada. Exports to Mexico trended lower in volume but still climbed 26% in value to just under $600,000. 

Complete January-February 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 and beef currently face retaliatory duties in China. 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 37% (the MFN rate plus the 25% Section 232 retaliatory duty, which remains in place).