With data available from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to the end of October, it is clear that the USA won’t come close to matching last year's record volumes of beef exports.

For the first 10 months of 2023, the US just passed the 1m tonnes mark, which is 13% down on the volume for the same period in 2022, while the value is down 17% to $8.3bn (€7.7m).

It was always going to be difficult for US beef exports to match the record performance of last year, but the combination of reduced cattle supply, record high farmgate prices and weaker markets in Asia all contributed to the decline.

Main markets

Japan was the biggest market for US beef exports in 2022, but volumes fell by 22% in 2023 to 205,381t, with the value down 25% to $1.52bn (€1.41bn).

This meant Japan fell to second place in US beef export markets behind South Korea, which received 207,344t, which is actually 16% less than for the same period in 2022, while the value fell by 25% to $1.75bn (€1.62bn).

Volumes to China were also down, falling by 25% to a still healthy 160,773t, with the value down 28% at $1.36bn (€1.26bn).

Mexico was the star performer for US beef exports in 2023, with volumes increasing by 15% to 171,399t, worth $976m, a value increase of 25% on the same period in 2022.

Another market that is showing year-on-year growth - though from a very low base - is the EU and UK, which increased by 7% to 17,923t, with value up by 15% to $247.4m (€229m).


US pigmeat exports in 2023 to the end of October are the opposite of beef, with overall volumes up by 9% on the previous year to 2.38m tonnes, with the value up 6% to $6.66bn (€6.2m).

Mexico is the star performing market, accounting for 895,221t, a 13% increase on what were record volumes for the first 10 months of 2022.

The big Asian export markets for US pigmeat showed a mixed performance.

Volumes to Japan were down 6% on the previous year to a still substantial 288,447m tonnes, but volumes to South Korea increased by 3% to149,943t.

While prime cut volumes to China and Hong Kong were down 9% to 149,144t, pork variety meat exports were actually up a significant 4%, on what was a record year in 2022, to 280,682t.


2023 has been a complex year for US beef exporters, less so for their pork counterparts, who have benefited by a huge output drop in Europe.

US beef is unique, in that it is consistently one of the top three global importers of beef, as well as being in the top three exporters as well. This is because it has a disproportionate domestic demand for manufacturing beef used in burgers, while they have surplus steak meat. Therefore, it gets exported while manufacturing beef is imported.

Prolonged drought in the early part of the year meant more cattle were killed at that point, leaving supplies scarce as the year went on and farmgate prices soared to record levels.

At the same time, Asian markets were sluggish, so a reduction on last year's record levels is no surprise.

Part 2 will look at Brazil and Australia and will be published on 2 January 2024.