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Beef Exports Shatter Records

According to year-end statistics released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), exports of U.S. pork, beef and lamb set new records across the board in 2011, reaching all-time highs in both volume and value and exceeding $11.5 billion in total value.

Beef exports finished the year at 1.287 million metric tons (mt) valued at $5.42 billion. This broke the 2003 volume record of 1.274 million mt and easily surpassed the 2010 value record of $4.08 billion. Export volume was 21% larger than in 2010, with value up 33%.

Beef export value per fed steer and heifer slaughtered was a record $206.37 in 2011, which was more than one-third higher than a year ago ($153.09). Beef exports equated to 14% of total production when including both muscle cuts and variety meat. For muscle cuts only, exports totaled 11% of total production. In 2010, these ratios were 11.7% and 9%, respectively.

“We have greatly diversified our beef export destinations and by doing so we have eclipsed the level of exports we had prior to BSE,” says Phil Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “By building new markets and steadily reclaiming the market share we lost in Asia due to BSE, we were able to approach the $5.5-billion mark in 2011 – that’s one-third higher than the 2010 record, and a very significant achievement for the U.S. beef industry. This outstanding performance in the international markets is exactly the catalyst we need to grow our cattle numbers. Nothing helps grow operations like a boost in profitability, and the success we are achieving is definitely contributing to producers’ bottom line.”

When the cattle industry’s Joint International Markets Committee met last week in Nashville, TN, USMEF economist Erin Borror explained, “Not to understate the value of the U.S. domestic market by any means, but really the future growth, and certainly what we’ve seen the last couple of years, is coming from demand outside of the U.S.”

Borror also pointed out that the beef cuts typically exported have increased in value and made the beef cutout less dependent on middle meats.

“We’ve been able to spread that value across the entire carcass instead of being heavily weighted on the middle meats,” Borror explained. “Of course, that’s been really beneficial with the U.S. consumer ability to pay for middle meats struggling. We’ve added more value to the chuck, round and short plate items and that increase, per head, was around $188 on the whole cutout.”

While the record-breaking performance of 2011 is impressive, Seng says USMEF and its industry partners have laid the groundwork for even greater success in the future.

“Demand for U.S. red meat has never been stronger, and we are well-positioned to build on this success,” Seng explains.“We have the marketing tools in place to showcase the quality and consistency of U.S. products, which our industry is able to deliver at a very competitive price and end users are able to utilize in extremely creative and innovative ways. Real opportunities exist for further growth, and USMEF fully intends to capitalize on this strong momentum.”

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