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Rapid Start for 2024 Pork Exports; Beef Export Value Above Year-Ago

Published: Mar 08, 2024

U.S. pork exports raced to a great start in 2024, according to January data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). While January beef exports were slightly below last year’s volume, export value trended significantly higher. Lamb exports were also strong in January, posting the highest value in more than four years.   

Although January pork exports were led by another powerful performance in leading market Mexico, U.S. pork continued to make gains in a wide range of Western Hemisphere and Asia-Pacific destinations. Pork exports totaled 251,424 metric tons (mt) in January, up 6% from a year ago, while export value also increased 6% to $682.1 million.

“Mexico’s demand for U.S. pork is so spectacular that it tends to overshadow other great success stories,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “It is especially gratifying to see other markets following the trail blazed by Mexico, as purchases expand beyond raw material for further processing to include center-of-the-plate cuts, including loins, which are gaining popularity at retail and foodservice.”

January beef exports totaled 99,764 mt, down 1% from a year ago. But export value climbed 9% to $763.8 million, as value trended higher year-over-year to South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Central America, the Caribbean and Hong Kong.

“While USMEF expects 2024 to be another challenging year in terms of beef supply availability, the upward trend in export value is a positive sign,” Halstrom said. “The inventory has been cleared and customers in Asia are reloading on U.S. beef. There is also more optimism in Asia’s foodservice sector, especially in Korea. Combined with the recent strength we’ve seen in the Western Hemisphere, this bodes well for beef demand in the coming year. January was also an excellent month for beef variety meat exports, which are especially important for maximizing the value of every animal.” 

Strong gains for U.S. pork in Mexico, Korea, Central and South America, Australia

January pork exports to Mexico reached 102,181 mt, up 6% from a year ago and the second largest on record, trailing only December 2023. Export value increased 8% to $207.2 million, the seventh largest on record.

After a very strong finish in 2023, January pork exports to Korea soared 53% from a year ago to 20,727 mt. Export value was up 51% to $67.6 million. This follows a remarkable performance in December, when shipments reached nearly 24,000 mt, the highest since 2019. Despite a rising presence of Canadian, Mexican and Brazilian pork in Korea, U.S. pork continues to make gains as the U.S. industry retakes market share from the European Union.

Despite lower shipments to leading market Honduras, January pork exports to Central America jumped 22% from a year ago to 11,846 mt, while value increased 29% to $35.7 million. Exports climbed significantly year-over-year to Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua. 

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

  • Led by outstanding growth in Colombia, January pork exports to South America climbed 53% from a year ago to 11,464 mt, valued at $32.1 million (up 62%). Exports to Colombia have rebounded strongly since October 2023 and have held above 10,000 mt for each of the last four months. January shipments to Colombia increased 57% to 10,448 mt, while value soared 70% to $28.1 million. Exports to Chile increased 22% to 692 mt, valued at $2.7 million (up 26%), while shipments to Peru were up 49% in volume (122 mt) and 19% in value ($215,000).

  • Exports of U.S. pork variety meat, which were record-large in 2023, continued to perform well in January. Despite trending lower to leading destination China, variety meat shipments increased 7% from a year ago to 50,353 mt, valued at $109.3 million (down 1%). Exports increased to Mexico, the Philippines, Canada, Central and South America and Korea.

  •  Pork exports to Australia, which rebounded dramatically in 2023, continued to build momentum in January. Exports more than quadrupled from last January’s low volume, jumping 374% to 9,059 mt. Export value increased 363% to $32.8 million. U.S. pork has also retaken share from the EU in the Australian market.

  •  Exports to Malaysia, which were record-large in 2023, continued to show strength in January. Shipments were nearly 1000% larger than a year ago at 503 mt, while value increased 850% to $1.5 million.

  •  January pork shipments to Japan were the largest since August, but were down slightly year-over-year in both volume (28,216, down 1%) and value ($114.8 million, down 1%). U.S. pork faces intense competition from Canadian and Mexican chilled pork and from defrosted Spanish pork being sold at retail. The weak Japanese yen continues to cause customers to seek out the most affordable options, including Brazilian pork.

  • Pork export value equated to $60.00 per head slaughtered in January, up 4% from a year ago. Exports accounted for 28.3% of total January pork production and 24.3% for muscle cuts. These ratios were each up about one percentage point from a year ago.

Beef export value higher than a year ago, led by strong variety meat results

While January beef exports to South Korea declined slightly from a year ago (18,789 mt, down 1%), export value increased 13% to $170.5 million. Rising consumer prices continue to weigh on Koreans’ spending power, including sharply higher prices for fruits and vegetables due to crop issues.

The cost of dining out in Korea rose 3.8% in February, but this was actually the smallest year-over-year increase in more than two years. Although trading below a year ago, the Korean won has been relatively steady and is nowhere near the challenge of the weak Japanese yen.

Beef exports to Mexico continued to strengthen in January, increasing 15% from a year ago to 20,111 mt – the second largest since 2020 following exports of 21,325 mt in December 2023. January export value jumped 19% to $112.9 million. This was the highest value since 2020. Beef supplies remain tight in Mexico as it exports more feeder cattle to the U.S., imports more beef from the U.S. and exports less beef to the U.S.

U.S. beef exports to the Middle East struggled mightily in 2023 primarily due to a slowdown in beef liver shipments to Egypt, but have showed signs of a rebound the past two months. January exports jumped 68% compared to the low year-ago totals, reaching 4,869 mt, while value increased 73% to $19 million. Exports to Egypt, the largest destination for U.S. beef livers, increased 58% to 3,627 mt valued at $5.5 million (up 33%). Exports also increased significantly to the United Arab Emirates (468 mt,  up 105%), Kuwait (296 mt,  up 658%) and Qatar (265 mt, up 597%), nearly all of which were beef muscle cuts. January exports to both Kuwait and Qatar were the highest since 2022. 

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

  • January beef shipments to Japan declined 6% from a year ago to 21,149 mt, but export value increased 6% to $153.8 million. Beef variety meats (primarily tongues and skirts) were definitely a bright spot, with exports increasing 33% to 3,721 mt, while value climbed 40% to $39 million. Demand from yakiniku restaurants remains strong and it is not possible for them to replace U.S. beef tongue and skirt. Lower tariffs on beef variety meats (under the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement) also contributed to relatively stronger demand for these items.

  • Hong Kong’s demand for U.S. beef strengthened last year and exports performed well in January, climbing 62% from a year ago to 2,715 mt, while value soared 93% to $32.3 million. Exports to China did not fare as well, declining 12% in volume (11,755 mt) and 6% in value ($102.1 million). The combined result for the region was a 3% decline in volume to 14,490 mt, while value increased 7% to $134.4 million.

  • Following a record performance in 2023, January beef exports to Central America increased 9% from a year ago to 1,950 mt, while value was up 2% to $12.7 million. Exports to top market Guatemala were the sixth highest on record at 900 mt, up 30% year-over-year, valued at $6.5 million (up 20%). Exports to Panama more than doubled year-over-year, climbing 126% to 337 mt, valued at $2.4 million (up 91%).  Exports to El Salvador were also significantly higher at 211 mt, up 80% year-over-year.

  • January exports to Peru, a key destination for U.S. beef variety meat, nearly doubled from a year ago in volume (601 mt, up 99%) and more than doubled in value ($2.7 million, up 107%). Variety meats accounted for 77% of the volume and 41% of the value.

  • Despite lower shipments to the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, January beef exports to the Caribbean were up 15% from a year ago to 2,684 mt, valued at $20.8 million (up 6%). Growth was led by smaller destinations, including the Leeward-Windward Islands, the Netherlands Antilles, Cuba and Haiti.

  • January exports of U.S. beef variety meat increased 12% from a year ago to 23,138 mt, while value climbed 16% to $89 million. In addition to growth in Japan, Egypt and Peru (see above), variety meat shipments increased significantly to Mexico, China/Hong Kong, Korea and El Salvador.

  • Beef export value equated to $360.18 per head of fed slaughter in January, up 9% from a year ago. Exports accounted for 12.8% of total January beef production, down slightly from a year ago, and 10.5% for muscle cuts (down from 10.8%).

January lamb exports largest in 10 months; value highest since 2019

January exports of U.S. lamb totaled 303 mt, up 28% from a year ago and the largest since March. Export value increased 53% to $1.7 million, the highest monthly value since December 2019. Export growth was led by the Caribbean (156 mt, up 97%, valued at just under $1 million, up 60%) and Canada (24 mt valued at $264,000, each up nearly 400%). Although shipments to Mexico were lower than a year ago (105 mt, down 19%), value still increased 12% to $316,000.

Complete January 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).