US beef exports in August were the second highest on record at 133,832t, 1% higher year on year and surpassed only by exports in May this year.

Value again exceeded S1bn and for year to date in 2022, export volumes are running 5% higher than the record year of 2021, passing the $1m tonnes level after eight months.

The value of US exports is a dramatic 24% higher than in 2021 at $8.2bn.

China is engine for growth

This golden age for US beef exports is driven by the sustained growth in demand from China, in addition to the long-established US beef markets in Asia.

Exports to China and Hong Kong were 30,806t in August, 20% higher than a year ago, and the value was up 17% at $272.3m.

This means that for the year to date, US beef exports to China are running 25% ahead of last year at 193,511t, with the value growth even higher, 38% above last year at $1.77bn.

This makes China and Hong Kong the second-highest value destination for US beef exports in 2022 behind South Korea.

Expectations for the remainder of the year are positive, as the food service and hospitality sectors in Hong Kong have recently had quarantine restrictions lifted, which should further boost demand.

Rest of Asia steady

August beef exports to South Korea were 24,546t, just slightly above the August 2021 level, but for 2022 year to date, US exports to South Korea are running 4% ahead of last year’s record volume at 197,749t.

A temporary relaxing of import tariffs has undermined US competitiveness, as it already has a preferential rate, but this has been offset by increased overall demand.

Grain-fed US beef is the most popular high-value beef product in Asian markets.

Exports to Japan were a contrast in August, as they were down by 18% at 25,959t. Despite this, Japan remained the highest volume destination in the year to August at 212,198t, which is 2% lower than for the same period in 2021.

Exports to the EU and UK are low in the overall total of US beef exports, but it has shown significant growth this year compared with 2021.

The volume for the first eight months is 13,691t, which is 68% higher than last year. The US has access to a tariff-free quota for the EU that will, in time, increase to 35,000t.


For the first time in 2022, August US pigmeat exports exceeded the corresponding month in 2021 at 226,293t, but overall US pig meat export volumes for the 2022 year to date are running 15% behind 2021.

Mexico is the main and growing market for US pigmeat exports, taking 620,718t, which is 14% ahead of the same period last year.

However, exports to China are a dramatic 44% lower than the same period in 2021 at 323,422t, compared with 564,511t in 2021.

The dramatic surge in US beef exports to China over the past 18 months highlights just what Ireland has missed out on, having had exports suspended in May 2020 because of a BSE case.

US beef exports are on track for their highest ever year in 2022, even surpassing 2021.

The fact that the Asian market primarily, supported by Canada and Mexico, has been able to sustain this increase in exports while maintaining strong US cattle prices is positive for the global beef industry.

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