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September Results Show Strong Third Quarter for Red Meat Exports

Published: Nov 07, 2016

September was another solid month for U.S. red meat exports, with pork, beef and lamb totals well above year-ago levels, according to statistics released by USDA and compiled by USMEF.

September beef export volume was 101,224 metric tons (mt) – down slightly from August, but 27 percent above last September. Third-quarter volume was 307,383 mt, the largest since the fourth quarter of 2014. For January through September, export volume was 8 percent above last year’s pace at 848,930 mt. September export value was up 17 percent from a year ago to $533.3 million. For the first three quarters of 2016, export value was $4.54 billion, down 5 percent from a year ago.

Beef exports accounted for 13.5 percent of total beef production in September and 10 percent for muscle cuts only. January-September ratios were also 13.5 percent and 10 percent, up slightly from a year ago. Export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $256.98 in September, the first year-over-year increase (up 10 percent) of 2016. Through September, export value averaged $253 per head, down 10 percent from last year.

September pork export volume was 183,936 mt – also down slightly from August but up 7 percent from a year ago. For January through September, export volume was 5 percent above last year’s pace at 1.66 million mt. September export value was up 8 percent from a year ago to $491 million, while January-September export value was $4.27 billion, up 1 percent from the same period last year.

Exports accounted for 24 percent of total pork production in September and 20 percent for muscle cuts only. January-September ratios were 25 percent and 21 percent, up slightly from last year, mainly reflecting growth in variety meat exports to China/Hong Kong. Export value per head slaughtered averaged $48.29 in September, up 3 percent year-over-year. January-September export value was down slightly, averaging $49.24.

“Red meat exports continued to build positive momentum in September, and it couldn’t come at a better time,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “We have large supplies of pork and beef hitting the market and moving these higher volumes is certainly a challenge. But this is also presenting expanded opportunities in the international markets, as we are able to introduce new cuts and value-added products, and recapture market share from our key competitors.”

Seng noted that while the upward trend in export volume is encouraging, it is also critical that exports contribute to carcass value and deliver returns for the entire supply chain. For example, per-unit values for pork exports have trended higher since June, and chilled beef exports to Asia are performing exceptionally well this year.

September beef exports reach new milestones in Japan, Korea

September beef exports were led by tremendous year-over-year growth in Japan (22,882 mt, up 49 percent year-over-year) and South Korea (14,840 mt, up 75 percent). Export value in these markets also surged, up 32 percent in Japan ($132.1 million) and 83 percent in Korea ($86.6 million). Japan’s imports of U.S. chilled beef surpassed chilled imports from Australia for the first time ever in September, and based on preliminary October data Korea’s total beef imports from the U.S. also topped Australian beef. For January through September, U.S. beef exports to Japan were up 20 percent in volume to 193,457 mt and increased 11 percent in value to $1.12 billion. Exports to Korea were up 33 percent in volume (122,695 mt) and reached $715.5 million in value – up 17 percent from a year ago and on pace to exceed the 2014 full-year record of $847.4 million.

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

  • Strong September results pushed exports to Taiwan 12 percent ahead of last year’s pace in volume (30,064 mt) and up 2 percent in value ($245.6 million). The U.S. holds two-thirds of the chilled beef market in Taiwan, the highest share of any Asian market.
  • Despite a persistently weak peso, beef exports to Mexico were up 8 percent from a year ago to 174,667 mt, including a 10 percent increase in muscle cuts (90,724 mt). Export value to Mexico has trended lower this year, down 9 percent for total exports ($732.5 million) and 10 percent for muscle cuts ($538 million).
  • While January-September exports to Hong Kong were lower in both volume (74,945 mt, down 5 percent) and value ($452.5 million, down 20 percent), September was the second consecutive month of solid year-over-year growth. September exports totaled 9,715 mt (up 19 percent) valued at ($59.5 million, up 17 percent).
  • Fueled by strong growth in Indonesia and Vietnam, exports to the ASEAN region increased 18 percent to 17,797 mt, though value fell 5 percent to $97.4 million. Exports to Indonesia are well-positioned for a strong finish in 2016 following the recent easing of import restrictions in an effort to address the tight beef supply situation.

Strong momentum continues for pork exports to Mexico

After a somewhat slow first half of the year, pork exports to Mexico moved higher in August and continued to climb in September – posting the second-largest monthly volume on record (66,567 mt, up 14 percent from a year ago). September value to Mexico was $131.4 million, up 25 percent from a year ago and the highest since December 2014. For January through September, exports to Mexico pulled within 4 percent of last year’s record pace in volume (510,737 mt) and moved 1 percent higher in value ($939.7 million). USMEF’s efforts to bolster pork demand in Mexico continue to pay dividends, as per capita pork consumption has increased nearly 20 percent since 2011 and now exceeds 40 pounds per year.


Another positive factor for pork exports to Mexico has been the slowdown in shipments to China/Hong Kong, where the product mix tends to be similar. While still well above last year, September exports to China/Hong Kong (36,184 mt, up 26 percent) were down significantly from the May peak of 58,000 mt, reflecting a rebound in China’s domestic pork production. For January through September, exports to China/Hong Kong were up 70 percent from a year ago in volume (406,422 mt) and 57 percent higher in value ($787.3 million).

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

  • While pork exports to Japan were below last year’s pace in both volume (289,594 mt, down 8 percent) and value ($1.16 billion, down 5 percent), higher-value chilled exports remain on a record pace – climbing 10 percent from a year ago to 164,087 mt. During periods of large U.S. production, chilled exports to Japan provide an especially important outlet for loins and butts.
  • A rebound in Korea’s pork production led to a slow start for U.S. exports in 2016, but exports to Korea are poised for a strong finish as September results moved higher year-over-year for the second consecutive month. Compared to last year’s large totals, January-September exports to Korea were down 27 percent in volume (94,774 mt) and 33 percent in value ($252.1 million).
  • Exports to Colombia have slowed in 2016 (24,851 mt, down 22 percent, valued at $56 million, down 30 percent) due to a spike in domestic pork production and other headwinds, including the weak Colombian peso. But exports to Colombia rebounded in September, climbing 35 percent in volume (3,456 mt) and 29 percent in value ($8.2 million).
  • Pork exports to Central America cooled in September but remain well above last year’s pace in 2016, totaling 46,426 mt (up 16 percent) valued at $110 million (up 11 percent). Exports were higher year-over-year in mainstay markets Honduras and Guatemala and more than doubled to Nicaragua, as every Central American market except Belize is currently a top 20 volume destination for U.S. pork.

Lamb exports improve in September

September exports of U.S. lamb totaled 740 mt, up 19 percent from last year’s low volume, while export value was $1.68 million – up 26 percent from a year ago and matching the highest monthly value of 2016. Exports to leading market Mexico edged higher in September and it was also a strong month for exports to the Bahamas, Canada and the Philippines. For January through September, lamb exports were 3 percent below last year’s pace in volume (6,520 mt) and down 7 percent in value ($13.4 million).

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

If you have questions, please contact Joe Schuele at or call 303-226-7309.


  • Export statistics refer to both muscle cuts and variety meat, unless otherwise noted.
  • One metric ton (mt) = 2,204.622 pounds.