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Industry At A Glance: What’s the impact of beef imports?

International trade in both beef and cattle has been a part of the U.S. beef complex for a long time. Import activity surged last year. What’s ahead for beef trade internationally?

Nevil Speer

July 9, 2015

2 Min Read
Industry At A Glance: What’s the impact of beef imports?

Industry At A Glance has featured international trade during the past several months, highlighting several key components including feeder cattle imports from Canada and Mexico, U.S. beef trade with Canada and Mexico and the importance of beef exports for the U.S. beef industry. With that in mind, it’s also important to provide some perspective on the impact of overall import activity into the U.S.    This week’s illustration features annual beef import value categorized by key trade partners of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Mexico.  

Beef imports are an important contributor to the domestic beef business and consist primarily of fresh, chilled and frozen boneless beef. These imports are chiefly sourced as lean trimmings for the purpose of blending ground beef.  

Not surprisingly, import activity surged in 2014. The cause was two-fold: 1) strengthening U.S. dollar, thereby effectively making imports comparatively less expensive versus previous years and, 2) declining domestic bull and cow slaughter, thus decreasing the supply of domestically-sourced lean trimmings.  

annual beef imports

Despite last year’s strong uptick in imports (total ~$5.85B), beef exports also grew substantially and still outpaced import activity (total ~$6.98B) by over $1 billion annually. Meanwhile, the import trend has clearly continued in 2015: year to date through April, the most recent update available, has imports running 65% ahead of last year’s pace.

Do you foresee the U.S. beef industry being able to maintain a positive trade balance in 2015? How do you think foreign exchange rates might change during the course of the next six to 12 months? What are your perceptions of foreign trade for beef industry during the remainder of the year? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below. 

Nevil Speer is based in Bowling Green, Ky., and serves as vice president of U.S. operations for AgriClear, Inc. – a wholly-owned subsidiary of TMX Group Limited.  The views and opinions of the author expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the TMX Group Limited and Natural Gas Exchange Inc.

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About the Author(s)

Nevil Speer

Nevil Speer serves as an industry consultant and is based in Bowling Green, KY.

Nevil Speer has extensive experience and involvement with the livestock and food industry including various service and consultation projects spanning such issues as market competition, business and economic implications of agroterrorism, animal identification, assessment of price risk and market volatility on the producer segment, and usage of antibiotics in animal agriculture.
Dr. Speer writes about many aspects regarding agriculture and the food industry with regular contribution to BEEF and Feedstuffs.  He’s also written several influential industry white papers dealing with issues such as changing business dynamics in the beef complex, producer decision-making, and country-of-origin labeling.
He serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Institute for Animal Agriculture.
Dr. Speer holds both a PhD in Animal Science and a Master’s degree in Business Administration.

Contact him at [email protected].

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