U.S. beef exports set annual records for both volume and value in 2022, according to year-end data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
Despite slowing toward the end of the year, beef exports reached 1.47 million metric tons (mt), up 2% from the previous high in 2021. Export value climbed to a record $11.68 billion, up 10% from 2021 and nearly 40% above the previous five-year average. The U.S. exported a record share of its record-large beef production in 2022, and at higher prices.
In December, beef exports trended lower than a year ago at 112,707 mt, down 7%, while value fell 21% to $782.6 million. The December decline was due in part to a sharp drop in exports to China/Hong Kong, where demand had been constrained by persistent zero-COVID policies. China lifted most COVID restrictions in early December and resumed some international travel in early January. Along with the recent easing of COVID-related cold chain regulations and inspections, these changes offer a more optimistic demand outlook for 2023.
“2022 was a ground-breaking year for U.S. beef’s international presence, with global demand stronger than I’ve seen in all my years in the industry,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “Late in the year, exports certainly felt the impact of persistent headwinds in our large Asian markets, including depressed trading partner currencies and COVID-related challenges in China, but the long list of countries in which records were set showcases the industry’s focus on diversifying export markets. While the year ahead will be challenging due to supply constraints, the exchange rate situation has improved and we still see room for growth in the foodservice sector as more regions continue their gradual rebound from COVID.”
A solid December performance capped a record-shattering year for beef exports to Korea, which climbed 4% year-over-year to 291,748 mt. 2022 export value was $2.7 billion, up 13% and setting an all-time record for any single destination. Throughout the pandemic, beef export growth to Korea has been driven by soaring retail demand, in both traditional venues and e-commerce. The foodservice sector could receive a boost from Korea’s further easing of COVID restrictions, including removal of the nationwide indoor mask mandate at the end of January.
Beef exports to China/Hong Kong were also record-large in 2022, with volume totaling 278,294 mt (up 16% year-over-year) valued at $2.55 billion (up 22%). China announced sweeping changes to its COVID policies in early December, removing many restrictions on domestic travelers and consumers, and later removed restrictions on cold chain products and international travel. But these changes came amid a massive wave of COVID cases that steadily climbed throughout the month before peaking in most major metropolitan areas in early January.
While beef shipments to Taiwan slowed in the fourth quarter, exports still set new annual records for both volume and value. Exports totaled 64,818 mt, up 3% from a year ago and 2% above the previous high reached in 2020. Export value climbed to $746.9 million, breaking the previous (2021) record by 12%.
Exports of U.S. beef variety meat set an annual value record of $1.24 billion, up 15% from a year ago, despite a slight decline in volume (298,492 mt, down 1%). Export value growth was led by Japan ($534.5 million, up 6%), China/Hong Kong ($175.8 million, up 97%), Egypt ($90 million, up 31%), Korea ($54.9 million, up 45%), Canada ($24.3 million, up 43%), the Philippines ($16.7 million, up 162%) and Chile ($6.9 million, up 61%). Value was also slightly higher to Mexico ($266.6 million, up 1%).
Led by record shipments to the Philippines and Singapore and strong growth in Vietnam, beef exports to the ASEAN region jumped 20%, reaching 63,252 mt, while value increased 56% to just under $450 million. Despite significant tariff disadvantages, U.S. beef achieved widespread growth in the region as exports also set an annual record in Cambodia.
Beef exports to the Middle East increased modestly in volume (66,433 mt, up 3%) but climbed an impressive 34% in value to $297.2 million. In Egypt, the leading destination for U.S. beef livers, exports slipped 4% to 48,026 mt, but value still climbed 28% to $94.2 million. For beef muscle cuts, export growth was driven by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Kuwait, and Bahrain.
A record performance in the Dominican Republic and a continued rebound in the foodservice and hospitality sectors helped drive beef demand in the Caribbean, where exports totaled 28,588 mt (up 14% year-over-year), while value climbed 25% to $239.3 million. Exports to the DR increased 19% to 9,438 mt, valued at $97.6 million (up 24%). Exports were also record-large to the Leeward-Windward Islands and Trinidad and Tobago, and trended higher year-over-year to the Bahamas, Netherlands Antilles, and Barbados. Exports to Jamaica declined slightly in volume but value jumped more than 40% to $23.6 million.
Beef demand in Colombia continued to strengthen in 2022 as exports reached a record 9,844 mt, up 5% from a year ago, driven by growth in muscle cuts. Export value increased 18% to $47.9 million, also a record. Colombia is now the top volume market in South America for U.S. beef and second to Chile in value.
Coming off a record year in 2021, beef exports to leading volume market Japan took a step back in 2022. Exports declined 4% to 308,735 mt, while value fell 2% to $2.32 billion. Beef variety meat exports to Japan – consisting mainly of tongues and skirts – were lower in volume (54,670 mt, down 12%) but still climbed 6% in value to $534.5 million.
Beef export value equated to a record $447.58 per head of fed slaughter in 2022, up 10% from the previous high achieved in 2021. Exports accounted for 15.2% of total beef production and 13% for muscle cuts only, up from 15% and 12.8%, respectively, in 2021.