In 2012, U.S. pork exports hit a new high, rising to a value of $6.3 billion. That's not pocket change, especially when it is compared to pork exports only a decade ago worth just $1.5 billion. John Hinners, assistance vice-president of industry relations for the U.S. Meat Export Federation, told pork producers at the Nebraska Pork Industry Day in West Point recently that there is reason for great optimism as pork exports continue to rise.
With offices around the world, including the largest in Tokyo and Mexico City, USMEF works to promote U.S. red meat and increase profits for beef, pork and lamb by opening international markets in every way possible, Hinners said. While the numbers change every year, Hinners said that Mexico and Japan are the largest purchasers of U.S. pork. But China and Hong Kong, Canada, South Korea and Russia are in the market for American pork as well, in varying degrees.
"What works in Mexico is going to fail in Southeast Asia," he said. U.S. hams are a hit in Mexico. In Russia and the European Union countries, picnic hams and trim are popular. Hinners said that Korean consumers purchase butts and bellies, while Japan is interested in loins and tenderloins. As incomes increase in China, variety meats have become popular.
"In the U.S., red meat consumption has gone down," Hinners said. But internationally, there is a great demand for pork. He said that 27% of the pork grown in the U.S. will be sold in the international markets. "The export value is over $55 per head slaughtered," Hinners said. "Ten years ago, it was only $12 per head."
He said that USMEF often brings international customers to visit Nebraska hog farms, so they can see for themselves how American pork is produced. "It's important to have a one-on-one engagement with these international buyers," Hinners said.
Recently, pork variety meat exports have added great value. Tongue, tail, bungs, hind feet, front feet and heart meats are sought after, particularly in China, he said. Right now, 99% of Chinese pork demand is satisfied by its own domestic production, but there is great potential for growth in their international pork purchases as demand for pork grows in that country.
Hinners said other nations like Canada, Denmark and Mexico are competing with U.S. pork producers for these lucrative international markets. USMEF continues to work with American producers and international customers to develop new products and bring pork into new markets around the world, Hinners said.
If you'd like to learn more about international pork demand and exports, contact Hinners at 303-623-6328 or email [email protected].