DENVER – 2010 was the best year ever for US beef export value, according to December statistics released by the US Department of Agriculture and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation. A total of $4.08 billion breaks the pre-bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) high from 2003 of $3.86 billion by more than 5% and exceeds the 2009 total by nearly $1 billion. Total volume was 1.067 million metric tons, an increase of 19% over 2009.

Pork export value posted the second-best year on record at $4.78 billion, falling just 2% short of the 2008 high and besting 2009 by more than 10%. Total volume was 1.918 million metric tons – an increase of 3% over the previous year.

During 2009, the global economic downturn was very hard on beef exports – for the US and all exporting countries. Despite an overall drop in global demand, US beef maintained or increased its market share in most key markets and was well-positioned for a rebound in 2010.

Export value equated to $153.09 per head of fed slaughter, which is up 22% from 2009 and is 12% higher than in 2003. Nearly 12% of total beef production was exported, compared to less than 10% in 2009.

Mexico was the only major destination for US beef to show a decline in 2010, and even that market is showing substantial improvement. For the year, beef exports to Mexico were down 15% in volume (247,614 metric tons) and 10% in value ($819.1 million). For the third consecutive month, December exports to Mexico exceeded their 2009 value – increasing by more than 15% to $83.6 million.

US pork exports posted the best value year ever in Japan, reaching $1.65 billion. This was the third consecutive year in which exports to Japan exceeded $1.5 billion, with value jumping 7% over 2009 and 6% over the previous record in 2008. Volume was 434,923 metric tons – an increase of 3% over the previous year.

Pork exports have never broken the $1 billion mark for a single year in any market other than Japan, but came very close in 2010. Exports to Mexico reached a record $986.7 million – up nearly 30% over the previous high set in 2009. Volume was up 8% over the previous year to 545,732 metric tons.

Export volume per head of slaughter equated to $43.72 compared to $38.44 in 2009. The ratio of total production exported was 23.7%compared to 22.5% in 2009.

US lamb exports in 2010 dropped by 7% in volume (10,682 metric tons) and 25% in value ($20.6 million) compared to 2009. Exports to Canada and the Caribbean were down sharply, while exports to Mexico achieved a slight increase. Markets showing promise in 2010 included the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Hong Kong – all of which posted substantial gains in both volume and value.