With apologies to Dean Martin, it’s hard not to get in the spirit of Valentine’s Day when there are loved ones around and there are so many delicious ways to have pork. Sure, this time of year, you see the traditional bacon roses popping up across the social media outlets, but pork has so much more to offer.
Bacon roses are creative, but what about just giving from the heart and sharing a ham, loin roast or some chops with those near and dear to you. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so why not get creative with some pork belly.
Regardless how you show your love, be sure to say it with pork to keep the demand for the global No. 1 animal protein growing. Latest export numbers show that 2017 was huge for U.S. pork leaving for the world market. Data released by the USDA released and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation show pork exports totaled 2.45 million metric tons last year, breaking the 2016 record by 6%. Export value was $6.49 billion — up 9% year-over-year and the second-highest on record, trailing only 2014 ($6.65 billion).
The amount of U.S. pork production that is exported continues to climb, as 26.6% of total production ended up in international channels last year; up nearly a full percentage point from the year before. This clearly shows that the world is hungry for U.S. pork.
As volume goes, Mexico has the largest appetite for U.S. pork, devouring 1.768 billion pounds. Next in line are China/Hong Kong (1.09 billion pounds), Japan (868 million pounds), Canada (459 million pounds), South Korea (382 million pounds) and South America (229 million pounds).
Japan leads the way for buying the highest value of our product worth $1.626 billion. Other big spenders were Mexico ($1.514 billion), China/Hong Kong ($1.078 billion), Canada ($792 million), South Korea ($475 million), and South America ($268 million).
Looking at these lists, the importance of trade pacts is evident. Canada and Mexico are major partners for U.S. pork, stressing the significance of at least maintaining, and hopefully improving, the North American Free Trade Agreement. South Korea’s place on these lists is also not by accident. The Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement allows U.S. pork to enter Korea duty-free, and for that the Koreans rewarded us in 2017 by buying 28% more volume and 30% more value of U.S. pork than the year before.
As you see, the foreign markets love U.S. pork, and that is great. We need to preserve or improve the trade pacts that we do have, and fill in some trading holes with new trade agreements, say with more Asian markets.
But, Americans also need to do our part. Though the amount of U.S. produced pork finding its way onto foreign tables, there is still 73.4% of the U.S. pork that needs to be consumed right here. Belly up to the table, and feast on some great porcine product, and what better time to start than with a nice Valentine’s Day dinner.