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United States pork exports set new records in 2019

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Published on Feb. 22, 2020

“U.S. pork exports finished 2019 on a high note, setting new records for volume and value reaching nearly $7 billion, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF),” states Erick Johnson during the Inside Agriculture podcast published Feb. 18. 

Breaking records

            According to USMEF, pork exports soared to 282,145 metric tons (mt) in December, surpassing the previous high set in November 2019 by nine percent. Export value was $760 million, up a remarkable 44 percent from a year ago and breaking the previous record, also set in November 2019, by seven percent.

            USMEF notes these results pushed 2019 exports 10 percent above the previous year in volume at 2.67 million mt and nine percent higher in value at $6.95 billion. These numbers break previous records for both volume, at 2.45 million mt in 2017, and value, at $6.65 billion in 2014. 

            Pork export value per head slaughter was up $66.70 in December, nearly 33 percent than a year ago and the highest monthly average since 2014, according to USMEF. For 2019, per head value averaged $53.51, up four percent year-over-year.

            The percentage of pork production exported also set new records in December, as exports accounted for 32.1 percent of total pork production and 29.3 percent for muscle cuts only, up substantially from a year ago at 26.1 percent and 23.6 percent, respectively, according to USMEF. 

            In 2019, exports accounted for 26.9 percent of total pork production, up from 25.7 percent and the highest since 2012, according to USMEF. USMEF also notes for muscle cuts only, the ratio was up 23.6 percent from 22.5 percent in 2018. 

Export markets

            “China really helped drive the export market this year, but Mexico and Japan are also top markets,” Johnson says. 

            “Each foreign customer is really looking for something different, which helps balance the carcass and provide value for different areas of the carcass,” chimes in Dr. L. Clay Eastwood, director of international marketing for the National Pork Board. 

            “Mexico is still by and large a big fresh bone-in ham market, where a lot of those hams go down there for further processing,” explains Eastwood. “Japan is still very much a high-value market, where we send a lot of highly marbled product then get high values back for our U.S. producers.”

            She continues, “Then we have places like Korea and Columbia, they all differ in what they are wanting. We send a lot of Boston butts and picnic shoulders over to Korea for further processing. Columbia is another big market. We send a lot of ribs to them.” 

Beef exports

            On top of record large pork exports, the other two major U.S. protein sources were also successful in foreign markets. 

Although beef exports were below the previous year’s, beef export values still topped $8 billion.

 According to USMEF, December beef exports totaled 111,315 mt, down one percent from a year ago and valued at $682 million, down three percent. Exports in 2019 totaled 1.32 million mt, 2.5 percent below the previous year’s record volume. 

            USMEF also notes beef export value per head of fed slaughter was $321.21 in December, down nine percent from a year ago. The 2019 average was $309.75, down four percent from the year before. 

According to USMEF, December exports accounted for 14.3 percent of total beef production, down from 15.5 percent a year ago, and 11.6 percent for muscle cuts only, down from 12.6 percent a year ago.

Exports in 2019 accounted for 14.1 percent of total beef production and 11.4 percent for muscle cuts only, down from the previous year’s record high percentages at 14.6 percent and 12.1 percent, respectively. 

Lamb exports

            Lamb exports made strides as lamb export volume was the second largest on record behind 2011 and export value was the highest since 2014. 

            According to USMEF, December exports of U.S. lamb were 1,225 mt, up nine percent from a year ago, while value was up 24 percent to $2.36 million. USMEF notes 2019 lamb export volume increased 22 percent from a year ago to 15,732 mt, valued at $226.1 million, up 12 percent. In addition to Mexico, U.S. lamb also saw strong growth in the markets of Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Guatemala and the Philippines. 

            Information in this article was compiled from the Inside Agriculture podcast and

            Hannah Bugas is the assistant editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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