August was a strong month for U.S. red meat exports as beef export volume was the largest in nearly two years, and both beef and pork exports posted the highest monthly values of 2016, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
August beef export volume climbed 27% from a year ago to 106,818 metric tons – the highest since October 2014 and breaking the 100,000 mt mark for the first time this year. Export value was $566.8 million, up 14%. For January through August, export volume was up 6% to 747,706 mt, while value was down 7% to just more than $4 billion.
Exports accounted for 13.5% of total beef production in August and 10% for muscle cuts only – each up about 1% from a year ago. For January through August, these ratios were roughly steady with last year at 13% and 10%, respectively. Export value per head of fed slaughter was $256.73 in August, down 4% from a year ago, and $252.50 for January through August, down 12%.
Pork exports were up 16% from a year ago to 186,689 mt, the largest volume ever posted in August. Export value was up 19% to $512.76 million. For January through August, pork export volume was 1.48 million mt, up 5% from the same period last year. Export value moved 1% ahead of last year’s pace to $3.78 billion.
With August pork production at the largest level so far this year and record large for the month of August, exports accounted for 24% of total production and 20% for muscle cuts only, up slightly from a year ago. For January through August, exports accounted for 25% of total pork production and 21% for muscle cuts only – roughly steady with last year. Export value per head slaughtered was $49.36 in August, up 7% from a year ago and exceeding last year’s average for the third consecutive month. For the first eight months of the year, the export value per head averaged $49.37, down 1%.
Variety meat exports provided a strong boost to the August totals for both beef and pork. Compared to a year ago, beef variety meat exports were up 25% in volume to 31,582 mt and up 28% in value to $85.8 million. Pork variety meat exports totaled 44,563 mt in volume at a value of $88.2 million – up 44% and 51%, respectively.
“U.S. livestock producers deserve some good news in what has been a tough year, and this upward trend in exports is very encouraging,” Philip Seng, USMEF president and chief executive, said. “Currently, U.S. beef and pork are very competitive as the production of our key competitors – Australia and the European Union – has moderated, and prices have jumped. As U.S. competitiveness continues to improve, we remain optimistic that exports will maintain positive momentum through the end of this year and into 2017.”