The ins and outs of U.S. beef trade

Beef producers and consumers often ask about beef trade, why we import and export? The simple answer is we are trying to receive the highest value for the product produced.

Julie Walker, Associate Professor & Beef Specialist

February 15, 2017

1 Min Read
The ins and outs of U.S. beef trade

The following facts about beef imports and exports might be helpful to understand the beef industry: the U.S. is the largest producer, largest consumer, fourth-largest exporter and the largest importer of beef in the world.

According to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, the U.S. is the largest producer of beef, so why import beef? The U.S. has a competitive fast food service industry with a high demand for hamburger. Ground beef production requires the addition of lean to mix with the trim from heifers and steers harvested in order to produce the ground beef product.

Cull cows and bulls are a good source of lean product to incorporate with the trim; however, there is not enough of this lean meat produced in the U.S. Manufacturers could (and do) use some of the chuck and rounds, both lean cuts, to grind into hamburger. However, this is relatively expensive since roasts, value-added cuts (flat iron steak, Denver steak, and chuck eye steak) sell at a higher price than hamburger.

This demand for lean meat at a cost-efficient price leads to imports of the given product. A majority of the imported beef is lean beef that comes from Australian beef, New Zealand dairy beef, and cull cows from Canada.

To read more about U.S. beef imports and exports, click here. 

About the Author(s)

Julie Walker

Associate Professor & Beef Specialist, South Dakota State University Extension

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