LIVESTOCK AND POULTRY
World Markets and Trade
Status of U.S. Meat Product Exports
Faced with the financial crisis in Southeast Asia and Korea
and sluggish demand in Japan, the rapid export growth experienced
in recent years weakened in 1997 despite a strong rally in beef
and pork exports in the last quarter of the year. The value of
U.S. livestock product exports was $8.4 billion in 1997,
virtually unchanged from 1996. When last reported in October,
exports for 1997 were down 4 percent from the corresponding
period in 1996. The strong year end rally boosted export values
back to 1996 levels.
Japan remained the leading market for U.S. red meat, with
total exports valued at $2.4 billion. The Russian Federation was
the largest market for U.S. poultry, absorbing 38 percent of
total exports valued at almost $793 million.
Whereas weaker export unit values of U.S. exports of beef,
pork and poultry tempered export value gains in 1997, volume
increased 13 percent, 6 percent and 8 percent respectively.
(Volume levels used in this section are on a product weight
The market highlights of 1997 include:
- U.S. beef and veal exports in 1997 rose 13 percent to
692,000 tons, valued at nearly $2.5 billion. Export value
only gained 3 percent in 1997 because export prices were
sharply lower. Shipments to Japan increased 3 percent to
nearly 346,000 tons, finishing strong in the latter half
of the year. In 1997, Mexico was the second leading
market for U.S. beef as shipments jumped 82 percent to
about 107,000 tons. Exports to Korea totaled 90,000 tons,
a 27 percent increase over 1996. Beef shipments to Canada
fell 3 percent to 93,000 tons.
- In 1997, U.S. pork exports increased 6 percent over the
previous year, reaching 324,500 tons for a value of more
than $1 billion. Export surges to Canada, Mexico and Hong
Kong fueled the export growth, outstripping 1996's export
levels by over 30 percent. Export growth was dampened by
a disappointing 9 percent decline in pork exports to
Japan, accounting for over half of U.S. exports. A strong
third and fourth quarter wave of exports to Japan could
not compensate for early year losses.
- Beset by slow demand in Asia and low prices on product
shipped to Russia, the value of U.S. poultry meat dropped
2 percent in 1997 to $2.4 billion. Despite lower exports
to Hong Kong/China, the total volume of trade increased;
however lower per unit export prices for leg quarters
pulled down the overall value.
- In 1997, exports of hides and skins dropped by almost 7
percent to just over 22 million pieces. Due to favorable
prices compared to 1996, export value increased by almost
one percent to approximately $1.3 billion. Exports would
have been greater had it not been for the Asian financial
crisis that eroded earlier gains in Korea---which
accounts for almost 40 percent of total U.S. hide
exports. The impact of the disruption in the Korean hide
market was swift. When the credit crunch prevented Korean
tanneries from importing U.S. hides, U.S. cattle hide
prices plunged from a weighted average of nearly $84/cwt.
at the end of November 1997 to almost $68/cwt. by
December 31, 1997.
- Tallow and grease exports, at $520 million dollars,
dipped 10 percent in 1997 because of lower prices for
competing vegetable oils and reduced import demand in the
EU. Sales to Mexico, the largest U.S. tallow and grease
market, totaled $153 million.
- Variety meat exports slipped 17 percent in value in 1997,
finishing at $595 million. Weakened beef variety meat
exports to Japan accounted for the slide, as exports fell
from $422 million in 1996 to $255 million. Total beef
variety meat exports fell 25 percent in value to $468
- In the latter half of 1997, a wave of currency
devaluations, stock market plunges and business failures
swept through Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines,
Thailand and South Korea resulting in credit shortages,
falling incomes and inflation. Except for South Korea,
these markets do not represent a large share of U.S.
livestock exports, however, they are markets for
potential export growth---but not in the near term. The
financial crisis in South Korea, one of the leading
markets for U.S. beef and the top market for U.S. cattle
hides, has already impacted both beef and more notably
hide exports. (See Asia article.)
- Avian flu ("bird flu") threw the Hong Kong
poultry market into turmoil. The subsequent slaughter of
the entire Hong Kong poultry population and consumer
concerns about the safety of all chicken meat, have
introduced considerable uncertainty about U.S. export
prospects in this region. The Hong Kong/China market, one
of the strongest growing markets for U.S. poultry meat,
absorbed 24 percent of total exports in 1997.
- The Russian Federation, one of the strongest growing
markets for U.S. pork and beef in 1997, expanded its
purchases of U.S. beef and pork, with exports totaling
nearly $67 million.
- The EU became the 7th largest market for U.S. pork in
1997, snapping up 8,400 tons of product valued at $25
million--which represents 2.6 percent of total pork
exports. Exports of pork to Italy exploded from 220 tons
in 1996 to 3,800 tons in 1997; exports to the United
Kingdom almost tripled from 569 tons in 1996 to 1,496
tons in 1997 and exports to Germany nearly doubled
increasing from 418 tons to 781 tons.
- Pork exports to Australia fared surprisingly well.
Australia, traditionally a small importer of pork,
imported almost 1,400 tons of U.S. processed pork, up
from 80 tons in 1996. Australia prohibits fresh pork from
the United States to control the spread of Pseudorabies
Virus (PRV), Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory
Syndrome (PRRS), Transmissible Gastroenteritis (TGE) and
Trichina. Australia recently permitted fresh pork imports
from Canada, primarily all boneless and mainly legs or
- U.S. pork exports also did well in some nontraditional
markets like New Zealand and Venezuela. Pork exports to
New Zealand reached 977 tons in 1997, a 22 percent
increase. Exports to Venezuela skyrocketed from 51 tons
in 1996 to 1,027 tons in 1997.
- Beef exports to Poland exceeded expectations in 1997
jumping from 314 tons in 1996 to 2,239 tons valued at
almost $47 million. Though most high quality cuts of U.S.
beef are too expensive, there are niches for choice meat
and for tripe.
- U.S. beef exports increased significantly in some smaller
markets such as Egypt and South Africa. In 1997, U.S.
beef exports to Egypt rose to 688 tons, an increase of
almost 300 percent. Some U.S. quality beef continues to
be exported to Egypt despite local limitations on the
maximum fat content in frozen meat for direct
consumption. Exports of U.S. beef to South Africa climbed
from 27 tons in 1996 to 304 tons in 1997, as export
opportunities emerged due to the ban on EU imports and
that South Africa was in a herd building phase.
- U.S. exports of poultry meat to South Africa picked up
again in 1997, posting a 102 percent gain. South African
importers increased the pace of sales early in the year
to avoid imposition of higher tariffs. U.S. exports
increased from nearly 27,000 tons in 1996 to 54,000 tons
in 1997. U.S. exports had slipped in 1996 because of the
devaluation of the South African rand against the U.S.
- While hides and skins exports slipped 6 percent to Korea,
exports exploded to the Dominican Republic, South Africa
and Guatemala with significant volume increases.
- Tallow exports to Germany escalated to 9,300 tons in
1997, an 810 percent year-over-year increase. Exports of
tallow to Indonesia increased 104 percent in 1997 to
In 1998 red meat and poultry exports are projected to be near
the 1997 level. Beef and pork are projected to decrease 2 percent
and 5 percent respectively in 1998 due to weakened demand in key
Asian markets. Total poultry exports are forecast to increase
only 2 percent in 1998 with shipments to Russia expected to grow,
albeit at a slower pace than in previous years. Tallow exports,
tempered by the Asian financial crisis, are expected to drop from
approximately 944,000 tons in 1997 to 900,000 tons in 1998. Hides
and skins exports are projected to increase slightly in 1998 as a
result of growing sales to Mexico, the EU and China.
Last modified: Thursday, April 06, 2000