DENVER – In March, US beef and pork exports continued on a record-setting pace. Beef posted a 65 percent gain in value versus year-ago levels and pork showed a 40 percent increase, according to the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

On a per-head basis, both pork and beef exports achieved record value levels. The US exported 29.4 percent of total pork production with a per-head equivalent value of $56.52. The beef industry exported 15 percent of total production with an export value per head of fed slaughter hitting $205.40.

Beef exports for the first three months of 2011 increased 32 percent in volume and 53 percent in value. Pork exports were up 18 percent in volume and 25 percent in value compared to the first quarter of 2010.

Pork and beef March export levels set new value and volume records. Pork exports hit 217,025 metric tons and surpassed $553.6 million in value, a 31.3 percent increase in volume and 40 percent jump in value over year-ago levels. For 1Q 2011, pork exports accounted for almost 27 percent of total production and $50.79 in per-head export value.

Total beef exports in March of 117,075 metric tons were 45 percent larger than year-ago and up 18 percent from March 2003. On a value basis, exports were $475.2 million, up 65 percent versus both March 2010 and March 2003. For the first quarter, exports were up 53 percent in value and 32 percent in volume, totaling $1.2 billion and 296,535 metric tons. On a value basis, exports have exceeded 2003 levels for the past five months and export volume also has exceeded 2003 in three of the past five months.

For the first quarter of 2011, beef exports equated to 13.4 percent of production with value at $186.58 per head of fed slaughter.

Pork export growth has been led by a 212 percent increase to South Korea, totaling 73,905 metric tons valued at $175.9 million in the first quarter and 41,190 metric tons valued at $94.6 million shipped in March (more than four times higher than March 2010 and by far a new monthly record).

Mexico remains the top-volume destination for US pork, which bought 139,591 metric tons in the first quarter, 5 percent less than 2010. In terms of value, exports to Mexico are essentially level for the quarter ($255.4 million), but climbed 3.4 percent in March versus year-ago levels.

South Korea was the top growth market for US beef with first quarter exports up 181 percent to 52,635 metric tons and value up 190 percent to $226.4 million. Total March beef exports of 24,485 metric surged above March 2003 volume and were three times larger than March 2010 exports. The US accounted for 38 percent of Korea’s first quarter beef imports, up from 30.5 percent market share one year ago

Lamb exports for the quarter were up 18 percent in volume and down 10 percent in value. Mexico remains the top export market, buying 57 percent of all US lamb exports while accounting for 43.9 percent of the value.