US Meat Exports in 2007

By Shane Ellis, Iowa Farm Outlook. Trade data for all of 2007 has recently become available, so it is an appropriate time to look at the current US meat trade situation.
calendar icon 7 March 2008
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Last year was a record year for both pork and poultry exports, with 3.14 billion pounds of pork and 5.77 billion pounds of broiler meat going to foreign markets. Beef is also expanding, but even at 1.43 billion pounds it is at less than half the volume of the record high seen in 2003. Poultry exports up 10.9% compared to 2006 levels, while pork was up a modest 4.8%. Poultry exports will likely set another record in 2008. Although the trend in broiler exports has seen more up and down volatility the market conditions suggest a steady to increased demand for US poultry in foreign markets. Bird flu and other fowl diseases continue to be a concern in Asian countries. Poultry is universally popular throughout the world and with a greater amount of production and consumption than any other meat. The economies and wealth of many foreign counties are also expanding, and with a weakening US dollar, there is now more money available to purchase the “cheap” US meats. Figure 1 graphs how the volume of meat exports has changed since 1990. Compared to eighteen years ago beef exports are up 42%, pork is up 1242%, and poultry is up 405%.

Figure 1. US Meat Exports, 1990-2007

In recent history pork exports have been increasing consistently, year over year. On a percentage basis, pork exports have exceeded growth in both poultry and beef. However, the growth in pork exports appears to be tapering off. Foreign demand is for US pork is more likely to hit a “ceiling” than is poultry, because of cultural customs and tastes and preferences seen in foreign markets. Pork is more limited in the markets it can enter than is poultry. Although 2008 will again be a year of high pork exports, the increase may only be 3 or 4%.

Figure 2. Pork Exports 1990 and 2007

Figure 2 compares the distribution of US pork exports in 1990 and 2007The distribution of pork exports has evolved in the past two decades. The major markets for pork are still Japan and our North American neighbors. Other Asian markets are now playing a much larger part with growing markets in China, Russia and South Korea. Growth in pork exports is most likely to come from expansion in these newer yet still maturing markets. At this point we are still working on consumer loyalty in some of these markets. Within several years we will have a better idea of how these markets will impact long term demand .

March 2008

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