The US Meat Exporters Federation (USMEF) has announced that US beef exports were worth in excess of $1bn for the fifth time in 2022.

The volume was down slightly at 130,628t, but it was still the fourth-highest monthly total on record and 16% higher than June last year.

This brings the half-year total for US beef exports up to 743,904t, 6% higher than for the first half of 2021 and a value of $6.19bn (€6bn).


With demand from China dramatically reduced, the US, like all other pigmeat-exporting countries, experienced a drop in export volumes, both for June and the first half of 2022.

In June, exports fell by 8% to 219,131t compared with May and the volume for the first half of 2022 was down 18% compared with last year at 1.29m tonnes.

The value of US pigmeat exports was down by 18% at $3.62m (€3.5m).

Beef markets

The US will be the second-largest beef-exporting country in the world after Brazil in 2022, but is the largest premium-priced beef exporter.

This is because the US exports mainly the more expensive steak cuts and grain-fed US beef is the recognised premium beef product in high-value Asian and Middle Eastern markets.

Japan was the top US beef export market in June, taking 27,891t, a 12% increase on the previous month and for the first half of the year, the total was broadly in line with the first half of 2021 at 155,513t.

The South Korean market continues to grow, taking 24,820t, which is 22% higher than June last year and brings the total for the first half of 2022 to 150,493t.

The surge in US beef exports to China and Hong Kong continues, with that market taking 25,200t in June, 37% more than June last year, and it brings the half-year total to 135,821t, 27% higher than last year, despite considerable disruption from COVID-19 in the early part of this year.

It is also amazing to note that for the first half of 2020, Ireland exported more beef to China than the US.

The EU was a major growth market for US beef exports in the first half of 2022, almost doubling in size from a very low base to 10,040t.

Pigmeat markets

Mexico has been the biggest pigmeat export market for the US, taking 469,295t in the first six months of 2022, replacing China and Hong Kong which took 222,784t of pigmeat and pork variety products between January and June, which is a 53% reduction on volumes for the first half of 2021.

Japan is the next-biggest export market, taking 158,239t between January and June, a fall of 9% on last year, while South Korea is down 4% to 92,457t and Canada is down 15% at 92,742t.

Relevance to Irish farmers

Irish pig producers are completely exposed to global trade and the drop in demand from China has had a major impact over the past year.

Irish beef exports have struggled outside the EU, which reflects the strength of the EU and UK markets, plus we don’t have access to either China or South Korea.

Unlike pigmeat, Irish beef exports have struggled to increase volume sales in Japan, with the US and Australia dominating their market for imported beef in much the same way Ireland dominates the UK market for imported beef.

The indirect benefit to Irish farmers from strong Asian markets for US, Canadian and South American beef means that they are less focused on exporting to Europe, which helps demand for Irish beef.

Read more

Cattle prices up 27% in year – CSO

UK pig herd in a sharp decline