Beef Carcass

Beef and pork exports dropped slightly in January, according to the USDA.

Beef exports were down 1% from a year ago, but export values grew by 3%, according to an analysis from the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Exports accounted for 12.2% of total beef production in January, down slightly from a year ago.

Pork exports were also down 1% in January, with export values dropping by 9%. According to the USMEF, exports accounted for 23.6% of January pork production, down a tick from a year ago.

Variety meat volume was up for both beef and pork. Beef variety meat exports were up 7%, with a value of $81.8 million.

Pork variety meat exports grew by 5%, with the bulk of the increase credited to Mexico, Japan and Central and South America.

Japan was a key buyer of beef in January, with U.S. exports up 12% for beef and 36% for variety meats. According to the USMEF, January was the first month U.S. beef competitors saw a tariff reduction in Japan under the new Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

“It’s great to see Japan’s demand for U.S. beef increase in January despite these tariff rate changes for our major competitors,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO. “But this disadvantage will become more and more pronounced over time, so negotiations toward a U.S.-Japan trade agreement cannot come soon enough.”

Beef exports to South Korea were up 4% in January. The USMEF said the U.S. is benefiting from new trends in South Korea, including mid-priced steak restaurants and meal kits sold at the retail level and online.

Retaliatory tariffs continue to impact pork exports to Mexico, with volume decreasing by 9% in January from 2018 levels. Export values were down a whopping 28%. Conversely, Canada’s pork exports to Mexico were up 26%, and exports from the European Union were up 91%. Despite these increases, the U.S. remains the top pork supplier to Mexico.

Favorable tariff reductions from the TPP may have cut into U.S. pork exports into Japan. Pork exports were down 6% in volume and 8% in value in January.

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.