WASHINGTON – In the totals for 2021, data compiled by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) from the US Department of Agriculture showed that US beef exports exceeded the previous volume and value record in 2021 and surpassed $10 billion, for the first time.

Pork export data showed that volume was slightly below the record, but a new value record was set topping $8 billion. 

Total beef exports for the month of December came in at 121,429 tonnes, with export volume up 1% from a year ago. Value climbed 33% to $991.8 million, the third-largest month on record. Total results from 2021 showed volume at 1.44 million tonnes, a 15% increase from last year. It’s also 7% above the previous record set in 2018.  

Export value also increased to 10.58 billion, up 38% from 2020 and breaking the previous record in 2018 by 27%.

“The beef export results are truly remarkable, especially considering the COVID-related obstacles in the global foodservice sector and all the supply-side and logistical challenges faced by the US industry,” said Dan Halstrom, president and chief executive officer of the USMEF. “Obviously our large Asian markets accounted for much of the growth, but it really takes broad-based global demand to reach these impressive levels. So this success story is not just about Korea, Japan and China – but also a strong performance in Taiwan, excellent growth in Central and South America and a rebound in Mexico and Southeast Asia.”

For pork exports, volume fell 17% from a year ago to 215,872 tonnes as export value reached $604.3 million, down 12% compared to the same month last year. 

In 2021, pork export volume fell slightly behind the 2020 pace at 2.92 million tonnes. However, export value stood at $8.11 billion, up 5% from a year ago, which was a record.

Beef exports to China/Hong Kong finished strong in 2021 by making $2.09 billion, up 114% from 2020, volume also climbed to 87% to 240,827 tonnes. Direct exports to China, bolstered by greatly improved market access achieved in the US-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement, increased more than 346% from a year ago to 190,803 mt, valued at $1.59 billion (up 413%).

Through the year, Mexican pork exports climbed to a record 874,589 mt up 27% from 2020 and eclipsed the previous record set in 2017 by 9%. Export value also set a new record at $1.68 billion, up 45% from a year ago and 11% above the 2017 record.

Global exports of US pork variety meat set a new value record of $1.24 billion, up 19% year-over-year. Record-large pork exports to Mexico, Central America, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and the Philippines helped offset a decline in demand from China in 2021. Exports also increased to Japan and South Korea, including larger volumes of chilled pork.

“Entering last year, we knew it would be a daunting task to match the record level of pork exports reached in 2020 because of the recovery in China’s swineherd and its rising domestic pork production,” Halstrom said. “But the US is less dependent on China than other major pork exporters, and this is definitely reflected in the 2021 results. Even with shipments to China falling nearly 30%, total US exports posted a very strong performance thanks to outstanding growth in Latin America and other key markets.” 

Pork exports to Japan for 2021 were at 394,492 tonnes, an increase of 2%. Value increased slightly to $1.69 billion, up 4% from a year ago and the highest since 2014. 

Lamb exports showed 2021 exports 9% above 2020 at 14,053 tonnes, which put value up 19% to $20.45 million.