US red meat exports face some challenges in 2021

The head of the US Meat Export Federation says global demand for US red meat remains strong, but there are challenges ahead.

President and CEO Dan Halstrom says the US is still struggling on variety meat capture rates at some of the plants and they’re still struggling some specifications that require additional labor for the export market.

He says there are also logistical concerns as it relates to the ports. “Especially as it relates to the West Coast ports,” he says.  “Lack of labor to get these vessels out quickly.  We have vessels backed up on the West Coast to offload and seeing a shortage of containers to go from the West Coast back to the Asian markets.”

Halstrom says US beef and pork exports started 2021 below year-ago levels, but there were some positives, especially for beef.  “There’s some genuine sustained growth going on in China,” he says.  “This is a demand segment that really hasn’t had a lot of high quality grain-fed beef and I think it’s a testament to the Phase 1 China agreement and we’re starting to see the results right now.”

He says pork exports to China declined to start the year, but there were increases in demand for US pork in Japan, Central America, and the Philippines.

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