Exports of U.S. beef and pork both experienced a strong finish to the calendar year in December, besting 2019 figures and offering insights into consumer trends around the world and what is yet to come in the new year.

According to data from the Department of Agriculture and analyzed by the U.S. Meat Export Federation, pork exports in 2020 topped the 2019 record by 11%, reaching nearly 3 million metric tons. Value of pork exports also shot up 11% to a record $7.71 billion. Beef exports finished 2020 with annual totals lower than the previous year — down 5% in volume and value — but ended the year with fourth-quarter volume up 4.5% over 2019 figures.

"Consumers across the world responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by seeking high-quality products they could enjoy at home, and U.S. beef and pork definitely met this need," USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom said. "We expect these retail and home-delivery demand trends to continue even as sit-down restaurant dining recovers, creating robust opportunities for U.S. red meat export growth." 

The pork sector set export records in China, Central America, Vietnam and Chile; U.S. beef exports to China and Taiwan set records for the same time period.

Exports of U.S. lamb were up 27% by volume but fell 9% in value to $23.8 million.

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