DENVER – U.S. pork and beef exports in May continued their strong 2010 performance, collectively growing 25% in value compared to 2009 and 8% over April of 2010, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (U.S.M.E.F.). Totaling $769.5 million, U.S. red meat exports reached their highest monthly value since October 2008.

The gain in export value per animal processed in May was $53.10 per animal on the pork side — almost 30% higher than the $40.90 recorded in May 2009. For beef, export value equated to $160.30 per steer and heifer slaughtered compared to $122 at this time last year — an increase of about 31%.

Pork export value in May increased 22% over a year ago and 5% from April 2010, reaching $419.3 million. Export volume of 162,865 metric tons (359 million lbs.) was up 13% over last year and 4% from the previous month.

So far this year, the U.S. pork industry is seeing a higher return per lb. on its exports. The value of those exports hit $1.9 billion for the first five months of 2010, a 5% increase over last year. The volume of exports this year, however, is 787,869 metric tons (1.7 billion lbs.), essentially even with last year’s pace.

Pork muscle-cut exports are up 4% in volume and 9% in value over last year, while variety meat exports are down 13% in volume and 14% in value.

Beef exports are running stronger than last year in all major markets except Mexico. Global exports of 90,930 metric tons (200 million lbs.) valued at $349 million were 12% higher in volume and 25% higher in value than in May 2009. This pushed the cumulative 2010 results to 398,879 metric tons (more than 879 million lbs.) valued at $1.5 billion — an increase of 11% in volume and 19% in value over last year’s pace.

Beef muscle cuts are performing even more impressively, increasing 25% in volume and 29% in value over January through May 2009. Similar to what the pork industry is seeing in variety meat, beef variety meat exports are down 12% and 21%, respectively.

“The recognition of the quality and value of U.S. beef, pork and lamb is growing in the international markets,” said Philip Seng, U.S.M.E.F. president and chief executive officer. “The feedback we receive from both buyers and consumers tells us that even with the gains we are seeing, there are opportunities for continued export growth in key segments and niches of even the most well-developed markets, like Japan and South Korea.”

Jim Peterson, U.S.M.E.F. chairman and a rancher from Buffalo, Mont., said that gaining and maintaining access to key markets such as Russia and China are critically important to the bottom line of U.S. producers. “The value of exports per head we saw in May — more than $53 per head in pork and $160 per head in beef — is a vivid illustration of how important it is for producers to put resources into our key export markets,” he said.