DENVER – Data released by USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) shows red meats exported from the United States remained strong through the first half of the year. While April and May posted significant increases in both value and volume, export value was still the highest on record for the month of June and first-half shipments established a record pace for both beef and pork exports.

“USMEF had expected a continued strong performance in June for both beef and pork exports, despite significant headwinds,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and chief executive officer. “2021 has presented many formidable challenges for the US industry, including a very tight labor situation, logistical obstacles that slowed product movement and foodservice restrictions in many key markets. So, the fact that first-half exports reached record levels speaks to the loyalty of our international customer base, strong consumer demand for high-quality, nutritious US red meat and the US industry’s ability to adapt to a challenging and rapidly changing business climate. We have also seen a welcome rebound in beef and pork variety meat volumes, which had been down last year.”

Total beef exports for the month of June were 112,249 tonnes, up 42% from a year ago when COVID-related slowdowns in production affected exports. The export value of beef increased 68% from a year ago to $804.4 million, the third-highest month on record after April and May of this year. First-half exports reached 700,087 tonnes, an 18% spike from a year ago, valued at $4.64 billion (up 28%). Compared to 2018, the record year for US beef exports, first-half results were up 6% in volume and 15% in value.

Strong performance in South Korea, growth in China, demand in Japan and Taiwan, and a rebound in shipments to Mexico and Central and South America all contributed to the success of beef exports.

Pork shipments jumped 15% from a year ago to 238,935 tonnes as export value reached $696.8 million, up 35%. First-half pork exports topped last year’s record pace by 1% at 1.58 million tonnes, valued at $4.33 billion (up 7%).

Mexico and Central America led first-half export growth of US pork in 2021 along with a spike in shipments to the Philippines and Colombia, but China/Hong Kong remained the largest destination for US pork. With an increase in demand from Japan and South Korea, exports to China/Hong Kong accounted for just under 30% of total US export volume, after reaching 39% in the first half of 2020.

June exports of US lamb managed a slight increase in value to $1.6 million, but exports were still down 37% from a year ago at 1,083 tonnes. For the first half of the year, lamb exports increased 25% to 6,816 tonnes with a value of $9.1 million (up 14%). A strong demand for both muscle cuts and variety meat in Mexico, as well as larger muscle cut shipments to Bermuda, Trinidad and Tobago and Canada fueled the growth. 

A detailed summary of first-half export results for US beef, pork and lamb, including market-specific highlights, is available from the USMEF website.