Though beef and pork muscle cut export volumes were lower in October, variety meat exports helped offset the difference, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
October beef exports were up 2% from a year ago to 109,858 metric tons (mt), while export value was a record-high $687.1 million – up 22% from a year ago. Muscle cut volume was down 2% to 76,472 mt, but still increased 19% in value to $596.5 million. Variety meat exports increased 14% in volume (33,386 mt) and 39% in value ($90.6 million).
For January through October, beef export volume was up 3% from a year ago to just over 1 million mt. Export value reached $5.87 billion – 15% ahead of last year's record pace.
October pork exports were down 2% in volume (182,363 mt), but still achieved a 5% increase in value ($567.2 million).
These results were also bolstered by strong variety meat exports, which were up 24% in volume (51,440 mt) and 23% in value ($101.9 million) from a year ago. Pork muscle cut exports were down 10% in volume (130,923 mt), but increased 2% in value to $465.3 million.
Through the first 10 months of 2014, pork export volume was 4% higher than a year ago at 1.83 million mt. Export value is on a record pace, up 13% to $5.61 billion.
USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng said that while the slowdown in muscle cut volumes is concerning, October results were solid overall.
"Although global demand for beef and pork muscle cuts remains strong, the U.S. industry is facing some headwinds," Seng said. "Lower slaughter numbers have impacted available supply, and the U.S. dollar continues to strengthen relative to the currencies of a number of our key competitors and import customers.
"On the pork side, we continue to see large volumes of European product entering Asian markets at lower-than-normal prices. This is likely to continue until the EU's trade impasse with Russia is resolved."
Seng added that the October results serve as a reminder of the importance of variety meat exports to the U.S. meat and livestock industries.
"Strong demand for variety meat is very positive news for the industry because these products contribute significantly to the profitability of U.S. producers and processors," Seng said. "USMEF has also heightened the focus on alternative muscle cuts in many of our educational workshops and seminars. Familiarizing buyers with these economically priced cuts has been helpful in addressing price and exchange rate concerns."
October beef export highlights
October beef exports equated to 15% of total production and 11% of muscle cut production, compared to 13.5% and 11%, respectively, a year ago.
For January through October, exports equated to 14% of total production and 11% for muscle cuts (up from 13% and 10%). Export value per head of fed slaughter was $321.28 in October (up $70 from a year ago) and $287.32 for January-October (up $42.80).
Exports to leading market Japan were exceptionally strong in October, increasing 25% in volume (22,586 mt) and 54% in value ($164 million).
For January-October, exports totaled 206,879 mt (up 2%) valued at $1.33 billion (up 11%).
In addition, January to October exports to South Korea were up 12% in volume (96,040 mt) and 41% in value ($674.9 million). October export volume was the largest of the year at 11,167 mt.
Exports to Hong Kong have already set a new annual value record of $898 million, easily surpassing the 2013 full-year total of $823.3 million. October export volume was the largest ever at 16,779 mt.
Exports to the Caribbean were up 20% in volume to 19,042 mt and 26% in value to $124 million – just short of the full-year value record ($127 million) set in 2012.
October pork export highlights >>
October pork exports equated to 24% of total production, which was steady with last year, but just 18% of muscle cut production – down from 20% in October 2013. For January-October, exports equated to 27% of total production (up from 25.6%) and 22% for muscle cuts (up from 21.5%). Export value per head slaughtered was $56.99 in October (up 10% from a year ago) and $63.63 for January-October (up 19%)
Exports to leading volume market Mexico continue to shine, with January-October volume reaching 563,601 mt – up 12% from a year ago. Export value was up 35% to $1.3 billion – already breaking the full-year value record ($1.22 billion) set in 2013.
Related: U.S. Pork Exports to Korea Expanding
After a down year in 2013, exports to Korea have rebounded in the January to October period. Export volume was up 42% to 108,187 mt, while value increased 64% to $345.4 million.
Led by export growth to Colombia, exports to the Central/South America region remain on a record pace, increasing 7% in volume (99,349 mt) and 19% in value ($277.4 million) from a year ago.
Muscle cut exports to leading value market Japan were down 4% in volume (328,338 mt) but value was steady with last year at $1.54 billion. As noted above, Japan is one of the markets in which large volumes of relatively inexpensive European pork have limited U.S. growth.