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U.S. Pork Export Value Sets Annual Record; Strong Finish for Beef Exports

Published: Feb 08, 2024

Led by a record-shattering performance in Mexico and broad-based growth in other markets, U.S. pork exports set a value record in 2023, according to year-end data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). While 2023 beef exports were below the record totals posted the previous year, December exports were the largest since August and December export value increased 10% year-over-year. 

December pork exports climbed nearly 10% from a year ago to 268,399 metric tons (mt), the largest since May 2021 and the eighth largest on record. Export value increased 11% to $765.8 million, also the highest since May 2021 and the third highest on record. While December exports trended higher in many key markets, Mexico was once again the star performer, setting records for both volume (105,451 mt) and value ($233.8 million). 

The strong December results pushed 2023 export value to a record $8.16 billion, up 6% from 2022. Export value per head slaughtered also set an annual record of nearly $64. Export volume was 2.91 million mt, up 8% year-over-year and the third largest on record. 

“2023 saw tremendous growth in global demand for U.S. pork, and it came at a time when the U.S. industry needed it most,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “The expansion of U.S. pork’s presence in Mexico has been remarkable but the great news certainly doesn’t end there. We are very encouraged by the robust demand we’ve seen throughout the Western Hemisphere and in a number of Asia-Pacific markets as well.” 

December exports of U.S. beef totaled 108,497 mt, down 4% year-over-year but the largest since August. Export value was also the highest since August and climbed 10% year-over-year to $860.8 million. 

2023 beef exports totaled 1.29 million mt, down 12% from the 2022 record. While export value fell 15% to just under $10 billion, this was still the third highest annual value for beef exports. 

“There is no question that 2023 was a challenging year for U.S. beef exports, especially in our largest Asian markets where economic conditions have weighed on foodservice demand,” Halstrom said. “Of course, we were also challenged on the supply side, with less product available for export. But nevertheless, U.S. beef achieved excellent growth in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and we are encouraged by the December uptick in demand in South Korea and China. It was also great to see such strong per-head export value in December, topping $430.”

2023 pork highlights included record exports to Mexico, Central America, DR

December was another outstanding month for pork exports to Mexico, which climbed 17% year-over-year to 105,451 mt, breaking the previous monthly record (October 2023) by 5%. Export value increased 18% to $233.8 million, topping the previous record (November 2023) by 6%. 

2023 exports to Mexico were record-large in both volume (1.1 million mt, up 14%) and value ($2.35 billion, up 15%). While pork muscle cuts accounted for more than 85% of the export volume to Mexico, pork variety meats posted impressive gains in 2023, climbing 28% to 159,508 mt, valued at $302 million (up 34%).

Fueled by robust growth in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, December pork exports to Central America climbed 20% to a record 18,121 mt, valued at a record $53.3 million (up 19%). 2023 exports were the second largest on record at 137,469 mt, up 15% from 2022 and down just 1.5% from the 2021 record.  Export value increased 20% year-over-year to $405.7 million, an annual record. 

Although December pork exports to the Dominican Republic were below the large year-ago totals, 2023 exports still reached new highs for both volume (99,610 mt, up 16% from 2022) and value ($276.2 million, up 18%). Domestic production challenges related to African swine fever (ASF) have definitely provided a tailwind for U.S. exports to the DR. But pork demand has also surged at both retail and foodservice, buoyed by an impressive post-COVID rebound in tourism. 

Other 2023 results for U.S. pork exports include: 

  • Despite a slight decline in shipments to leading market China, pork variety meat exports reached new heights in 2023, climbing 9% year-over-year to 585,806 mt, valued at $1.37 billion (up 7%). In addition to outstanding growth in Mexico (see above), variety meat exports also increased impressively to the ASEAN, Canada, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Taiwan. China remained the largest destination for variety meat shipments at 335,591 mt (down 1% from 2022), valued at $854.6 million (up 1%). 

  • December pork exports to South Korea surged 64% from a year ago to 23,912 mt – the largest in more than four years. Export value climbed 69% to $81.9 million, the highest in more than five years and the third highest on record. These results pushed 2023 exports 9% above the previous year at 191,262 mt, the third largest on record. Export value increased 4% to $633.4 million, the second highest on record. 

  • Led by excellent growth in Chile and Peru and a fourth quarter rebound in leading market Colombia, pork exports to South America increased 2% in volume (118,660 mt) and 10% in value ($340.6 million) over 2022. After a slow start to the year, shipments to Colombia regained momentum and reached 98,876 mt, down 3% year-over-year, while value increased 10% to a record $272 million. Exports to Chile climbed 39% to 15,733 mt, valued at $53.1 million (up 11%), while shipments to Peru increased 23% to 2,298 mt, valued at $6.5 million (up 17%).   

  • With shipments nearly doubling to both Australia and New Zealand, pork exports to Oceania rebounded strongly in 2023. Exports to the region were the largest since 2020, increasing 98% year-over-year to 79,718 mt, while value climbed 79% to $283.5 million. Due to product restrictions, most pork shipments to Oceania are raw material for further processing. However, the region also has a growing appetite for value-added U.S. processed products. 

  • Led by higher volumes to the Philippines and Vietnam and surging demand in Malaysia, pork exports to the ASEAN reached 64,158 mt in 2023, up 22% year-over-year. Export value declined slightly, falling 4% to $150 million. Exports to Malaysia, where ASF has weighed heavily on domestic production, soared by nearly 1,700% to 5,170 mt, valued at $16.3 million (up more than 1,500%). Malaysia’s imports of European pork were also record-large, topping 44,000 mt through November. 

  • Though pork exports to Japan trended modestly lower in 2023, December shipments increased 9% year-over-year to 26,826 mt, valued at $111.5 million (up 11%). For the full year, exports declined 4% to 342,163 mt. While export value fell 5% to $1.4 billion, Japan is the second highest value destination for U.S. pork, trailing only Mexico. 

  • December pork export value equated to $70.74 per head slaughtered, up 6% year-over-year and the third highest on record, trailing only April and May 2020, when demand from China was surging. The full-year average was a record $63.76 per head, up 4% from 2022. Pork variety meat export value equated to a record $11.09 per head slaughtered, up 9% (or 93 cents) from 2022. December exports accounted for 31.9% of total pork production and 28% for muscle cuts, up from 30.6% and 25.6%, respectively, in December 2022. The full year ratios were a record 29.6% of total production (up from 27.6% in 2022) and 25.4% for muscle cuts (up from 23.8%).

Beef exports closed 2023 on encouraging note as per-head value exceeded $430

Mexico’s demand for U.S. beef continued to strengthen in December, with shipments increasing 14% from a year ago to 21,325 mt. Export value climbed 19% to $111.9 million. With interest in U.S. beef soaring among both retail and foodservice customers, 2023 exports increased 14% to 210,567 mt, the highest since 2019, while value surged 23% to $1.19 billion, the second highest value on record. While Mexico is an outstanding market for beef muscle cuts, especially those derived from the round and chuck, it is also the leading volume destination for U.S. beef variety meat. In 2023, variety meat exports increased 16% year-over-year to 109,084 mt, while value increased 19% to $318 million.

While December beef exports to leading market South Korea remained lower than a year ago in volume (23,327 mt, down 4%), export value climbed 14% to $220.6 million – the highest in 18 months. For 2023, exports to Korea fell 16% below the 2022 record but still reached 248,562 mt. Export value was down 22% but still reached $2.13 billion, marking the third consecutive year that exports to Korea topped $2 billion. On another high note, the U.S. industry captured a record 68% of Korea’s chilled beef imports in 2023. 

December beef exports to China also showed some renewed momentum, with export value increasing 19% from a year ago to $126 million – the highest since September. Export volume increased 16% to 14,289 mt, similar to the previous two months. For the full year, exports to China declined 22% to 189,191 mt, valued at $1.6 billion (down 25%). The news was more encouraging in Hong Kong, where business travel and tourism continue to rebound from the impact of prolonged COVID-related restrictions. In 2023, beef exports to Hong Kong increased 14% year-over-year to 39,506 mt, valued at $415 million – up 6%. 

Other 2023 results for U.S. beef exports include: 

  • December exports of beef variety meats improved from a year ago, climbing 5% to 25,197 mt, while export value jumped 12% to $101 million. Both volume and value were the highest since June. For the full year, beef variety meat exports were down 4% year-over-year to 285,486 mt, while value fell 9% to $1.13 billion. 

  • Beef exports to Central America closed 2023 on a high note, with December shipments climbing 31% from a year ago to 2,041 mt, valued at $13.9 million (up 47%). These results pushed 2023 export volume to a record 21,068 mt, up 4% from a year ago, while value increased 7% to $149.3 million – also a record. Export volume and value were record-large to leading market Guatemala and to Honduras, while shipments to El Salvador set a volume record. 

  • December beef shipments to the Dominican Republic increased 14% from a year ago to 1,142 mt, while value soared 26% to $11.8 million. These results pushed 2023 exports 2% higher than a year ago in volume (9,673 mt) and 10% higher in value ($107.4 million) – both annual records. Similar to pork, the DR’s demand for U.S. beef has been bolstered by a robust rebound in tourism and heightened interest from retail consumers. 

  • Although beef exports to Taiwan were below the record levels posted in 2022, demand proved more resilient than in other major Asian markets. Shipments to Taiwan totaled 60,310 mt, down 7% year-over-year, while value fell 16% to $625.5 million. By emphasizing the value and quality of alternative beef cuts, the U.S. maintained its dominant position in Taiwan’s chilled beef sector, capturing 75% market share. 

  • While beef exports to South America declined in 2023, Peru decidedly bucked this trend. Shipments to Peru rebounded 20% year-over-year to 7,613 mt, while value climbed 13% to $31 million. Muscle cut exports to Peru were steady with the previous year at 1,509 mt, but variety meat exports increased significantly – climbing 27% in volume (6,104 mt) and 14% in value ($11 million).  Peru is the third largest destination for U.S. beef liver exports, of which export volume was up 17% from 2022 at 4,843 mt, with value up slightly at $6.5 million. 

  • Despite a December slowdown, beef exports to Africa increased 49% in 2023, reaching 20,464 mt. Export value climbed 22% to $25.4 million. Shipments to leading market South Africa increased 69% to 13,142 mt, valued at $14.1 million (up 31%) as beef variety meat shipments rebounded strongly and were the second largest after 2020.  South Africa is the top destination for U.S. beef kidney exports and the second largest destination for liver exports. 2023 exports also increased to Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Morocco and Tunisia.    

  • Beef export volume to Japan remained subdued in December, reaching just 18,530 mt (down 25% year-over-year). Export value fared somewhat better, falling 6% to $141.5 million. For the full year, exports to Japan dropped 22% to 243,019 mt, while value declined 23% to $1.8 billion. The weak yen, Japan’s high import duties and declining disposable incomes have hurt Japan’s beef demand, but the recent rebound in tourism is driving some optimism in the foodservice sector.     

  • December beef export value equated to $431.50 per head of fed slaughter, up 11% from a year ago and the highest since April. The 2023 average was $397.04 per head, down 11% from the record level ($448.57) posted in 2022. Exports accounted for 14.4% of total December beef production and 11.9% for muscle cuts, each down about one-half percentage point from a year ago. For 2023, these ratios were 14% of total production and 11.7% for muscle cuts – down from the record 15.2% and 13%, respectively, in 2022. 

Lamb exports declined in 2023, but December shipments edged higher

Led by growth in Mexico, the Bahamas and the Netherlands Antilles, December exports of U.S. lamb totaled 186 mt, up 13% year-over-year, while export value climbed 16% to $1.1 million. For 2023, exports declined 16% to 2,355 mt, while value fell 15% to $12.6 million. Full-year exports increased to Central America, the Netherlands Antilles and the Bahamas, but declined to Mexico and Canada.

Complete 2023 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).