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China’s interest in variety meats is good for the U.S.

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Is China a ray of hope? There are not too many bright lights shining in the hog world right now, but news out of China may provide a little spark.

In late November, China’s General Administration of Customs gave approval to 12 U.S. pork establishments to export into China. This is the first time in about 10 months U.S. plants have been cleared for export. 

On the beef side, 18 U.S. establishments were also approved for export to China.

What remains to be seen is if these latest approvals materialize into actual pork sales to China. Just having the door opened lets a little light in.

Steps in the right direction

Chinese domestic pork supplies have dwindled due to the spread of African swine fever. Thus, one would think there is opportunity for U.S. pork to help fill the void. However, need and want do not always turn into sales.

According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), pork variety meat exports to China were up 10 percent from a year ago from January to September. Both volume and value of those exports to China – 252,823 metric tons and $650.6 million, respectively – are steps in the right direction for U.S. pork.

This growth in China is impressive, and even more so, when one considers U.S. pork is still subject to retaliatory duties.

Variety is where it’s at

While domestic pork consumption has room for growth, the export market without a doubt is just as important, and according to the USMEF, pork variety meat is where it’s at. 

While these products aren’t widely consumed in the U.S., they are hot commodities elsewhere. 

Variety meats are nontraditional cuts from the hog, which may be discarded in the U.S. but are considered a delicacy in other countries.

Stressing the versatility of the hog, it has been said people use everything but the squeal. Consumers in other countries, as well as various ethnic groups in the U.S., find places on their plates for hog ears, snouts, brains, intestines and everything in between.

Including the numbers heading to China mentioned above, total exports of the variety meats totaled 438,190 metric tons from January to September, up 15 percent from the same period a year ago. The value of those exports grew 13 percent to $1.03 billion.

This increase pushed pork export value per head slaughtered to $63.16, a record level. This is up five percent from a year ago, and nearly $11 is attributed to variety meats, according to the USMEF.

Getting full value for each hog is top of mind for every U.S. producer, and utilizing the entire carcass is the best way to achieve this goal. So, producers should take a look east to get more pork into China and other countries, whatever form the pork may take.

Kevin Schulz is an editor for The Farmer. This article was originally published in Farm Progress on Dec. 11.

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