The surge in US beef exports continued in August, as sales passed $1bn for the first time in a month’s trading, with132,577t of beef shipped. This brings the total beef exports for the year to-date to 955,407t, at a value of $6.6bn, which is running 6% ahead on volume and 20% ahead in value on the record year of 2018.


As well as heading for a record year overall, the other big story for US beef exports involves China. Despite being locked in a trade war until last January, the US is now rapidly increasing beef sales to the country. August was a record month for sales to China, with volume exceeding 20,000t for the first time, bringing the total for this year so far to almost 120,000t, with a value of just under $1bn.

Other Asian markets

Exports to Japan were the highest of 2021 so far at 31,573t, bringing the volume for the year to-date up to 216,409t. Retail demand for chilled US beef is the driver of increased value, with US beef exports to Japan for the year to date worth $1.5bn.

Exports to South Korea were down at 24,294t, though sales for the year to August are at a record pace of almost 190,000t, with a value of $1.5bn.


With Australia still in the restocking phase, the US will be in second place for global beef exports this year and likely to set a record overall. Sales to the EU remain negligible, despite securing extra tariff-free quotas. This is because it is more efficient for US beef producers to target the high value grain-fed beef markets of Asia than the hormone free EU market.

Irish farmers and exporters will look on with envy at the speed at which the US has built high volume sales to China, having been embroiled in a trade war up until the start of 2020. At that point, Irish beef exports to China were well ahead of the US, but that has changed dramatically over the past year. The other dynamic in the global beef industry at present that has the potential to rock the system is the continued suspension of Brazil’s beef exports to China. Nervousness is growing with exporters, many of whom have shipments at sea, in anticipation of a trade resumption that hasn’t yet arrived. If trade doesn’t resume soon, it will send shockwaves through global beef markets.