Several key measurements also showed continued growth: export value per head and percentage of total production exported. For pork, January’s export value equated to $59.44 per head of commercial slaughter compared to $43.59 a year ago and 29.6 percent of total production (including variety meat) was exported in January versus 24.2 percent last year. For just muscle cuts, 25 percent of production was exported this January compared to 20 percent last year.

Beef exports equated to $197.95 per head of fed slaughter in value compared to $170.10 last year. The percentage of production exported – 12.3 percent for beef and variety meats and 9 percent for just muscle cuts – remained the same.

Beef exports maintain record pace
After a record-setting 2011 that saw the U.S. export nearly 1.3 million metric tons of beef valued at more than $5.4 billion, the industry maintained the pace in January with equal export volumes (89,454 metric tons) while value jumped 14 percent to $405.9 million.

“Market diversification remains a key for beef in 2012,” said Seng. “We’re aggressively pursuing new opportunities in the Middle East, which has grown to be the No. 2 volume market. The Central/South America region (Chile, Peru and Guatemala) is another where the growth (73 percent in volume and 79 percent in value in January) justifies our intensified focus on the retail, food service and processing sectors there.”

Russia is another market where USMEF has focused its efforts with offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg. An expanded tariff rate quota (TRQ) there – up to 60,000 metric tons from 41,700 last year – creates new opportunities for U.S. beef. American beef muscle cut exports to Russia in January jumped 84 percent to 2,129 metric tons.

In addition, Seng noted that the U.S. beef industry remains optimistic that Japan will expand access for its products during 2012. Currently, the U.S. only can export to Japan beef from animals under 21 months of age, severely limiting opportunities in a country that was the No. 1 beef export market in 2003 prior to BSE.

Top beef export markets in January were:
• Mexico: 19,850 metric tons (down 2 percent) valued at $87.1 million (up 16 percent)
• Middle East: 13,047 metric tons (up 12 percent) valued at $29 million (up 14 percent)
• Canada: 12,582 metric tons (down 3 percent) valued at $72.7 million (up 15 percent)
• South Korea: 11,697 metric tons (down 2 percent) valued at $51.9 million (up 6 percent)
• Japan: 9,688 metric tons (up 2 percent) valued at $59.6 million (up 26 percent) end_mark

—U.S. Meat Export Federation press release