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Beef Magazine Aug 13, 2020

Exports boost beef's bottom line

Even with COVID-19 playing havoc with economies worldwide, U.S. beef exports remain strong.

It wasn’t all that long ago that the U.S. exported almost no beef. It took decades for beef exports to reach 5% of our total production. The jump from 5% to 8-10% happened more quickly and over the last few years, beef exports have become a significant part of the cattle market. With better government-negotiated access, a better global economy, a growing international middle class, better marketing by U.S. companies and the accumulated long-term efforts of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), beef exports jumped from 10-15% of total production very quickly.

The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely slowed that momentum, but all the above factors blunted the impact, so that only a small drop in overall averages has occurred so far. In fact, some countries are still growing their demand for U.S. beef and variety meats.

USMEF CEO Dan Halstrom reported year-to-date export success to the Checkoff Export Growth Committee at the Cattle Industry Midyear Meeting in Denver recently. Committee members are tasked with keeping a score sheet and evaluating each program’s success in meeting Long Range Plan goals and many of USMEF’s efforts are funded by the Beef Checkoff.

By the numbers

Halstrom said through 2020’s first five months, U.S. beef and beef variety meats exports were down 3% by volume and 5% by value. Volume exports to Japan were up 5%; flat to South Korea; up 15% to Canada and Mexico; and up 2% to Taiwan. Exports to China were down 5%; exports were down 25% to the Middle East.

Exports by value were up 2% to Japan, 3% to Mexico and 16% to Canada. They were down 3% to South Korea and 4% to China.

Halstrom made a point of noting that $1 billion of the $8 billion value total was from variety meats. The demand from other countries and cultures for variety meats not only provides markets for products that otherwise would end up in pet food but for others, provides a substantial premium. Items like liver, tongues, lips and tripe are dependent on export markets. Variety meats account for about 27 pounds per head and $37 in added value.

It was also fascinating to see the boost exports give to muscle cuts. Exports account for 95% of our short plate, 85% of short ribs, 35% of outside skirt, 31% of chuck shoulder clod and 15-20% of other chuck cuts. Halstrom indicated he was most appreciative of the 48% export support for gooseneck rounds...


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