DENVER – According to data compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) from the USDA, beef exports broke another value record during August by eclipsing the $1 billion mark for the first time. 

Pork exports also had another strong month in August and are remaining ahead of the 2020 record pace.

"The August export results would be impressive under any circumstances, but achieving these totals despite all the COVID-related obstacles at home and overseas is truly remarkable," said Dan Halstrom, president and chief executive officer of USMEF. “Our transportation and labor situation is challenging, and customers continue to face an uncertain business climate due to foodservice restrictions and other economic headwinds. Yet international buyers remain committed to the quality and consistency delivered by US red meat, and the US industry has gone to tremendous lengths to keep shipments moving.”

Total beef exports for the month of August were 132,577 tonnes with export volume up 21% from a year ago and second largest of 2021. The export value of beef increased 55% from 2020 to $1.04 billion. The first eight months exports reached 955,407 tonnes, an 18% spike from last year, valued at $6.62 billion (up 34%). Compared to 2018, the record year for US beef exports, through August results were up 6% in volume and 20% in value.

Pork shipments went up 4% from a year ago to 225,822 tonnes as export value reached $633.9 million, up 20%.

USMEF said record shipments to Mexico and strong growth in several other markets would help offset the expected slowdown in muscle cut exports to China. 

The first eight-month pork exports topped last year’s pace by 1.5% at just over 2 million tonnes, valued at $5.62 billion (up 10%).

Halstrom said US pork number are very encouraging and a few years ago it was an achievement to reach $6 billion in pork export value in a full year. Now, in 2021 exports will exceed that total with an entire quarter to go. 

“Pork exports are on a record pace to Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic, and chilled pork exports to Japan and South Korea are above last year,” USMEF said. “While China's demand for pork muscle cuts is trending lower, variety meat exports to China continue to expand.”

Beef exports to China continued to show its steady climb as access barriers are being reduced under the US-China Phase One Economic Trade Agreement.  August marked the best performance to date, with exports topping 20,000 tonnes for the first time and value reaching $182.2 million. Both volume and value were more than five times the totals from 2020. 

US beef accounted for 5.6% of China’s imports, which is up from less than 1% last year. Combined exports to China/Hong Kong moved up 139% year-over-year to 154,353 tonnes, while value reached $1.28 billion (up 148%).

For August, Mexican pork exports showed record numbers at 80,779 up from 47% in 2020. That narrowly outpaced the previous record set in December 2016. Value jumped to 109% year-over-year to $162.4 million.  

Pork exports to Japan in July trended up in August at 32,837 tonnes which is up 9%. Value was also up 16% to $143.7 million. Following a record performance in 2020, pork exports to Central America continued to grow with August exports totaling 10,446 tonnes. Value in that market increased 71% to $28.7 million.

Lamb exports showed some strong signs with January-August exports 5% above 2020 pace at 8,997 tonnes, which put value up 8% to $12.4 million. Muscle cut exports were 10% higher in both volume (855 mt) and value ($5.1 million).