Opportunity for U.S. red meat at the start of the new year as Asian consumers return to restaurants and retail under easing COVID restrictions.

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U.S. pork exports will fall short of the huge records set in 2020 and 2021, while beef exports will set a record in 2022, likely approaching $12 billion. U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Dan Halstrom says the drop in pork exports is driven in part by African swine fever, but came on strong late in the year and the industry is well positioned for growth in 2023. 

"If you all remember in 2020 at the height of African swine fever in China, we just set all kinds of records, but it was mainly China," Halstrom says. "We've now seen extremely good diversification on the pork side as well, and while Mexico had a big year in 2022 and a very good partner, we've seen very good growth in Korea. We've seen very good growth in places like Columbia, Peru, Central America and Philippines. So, once again, having a diversified portfolio with a lot of different options market-wise, has really been a key."

As for U.S. beef exports, Halstrom says recent market access gains in China played a significant role, however there has been widespread growth in global demand. 

"Our record growth in 2022 and 2021 is really the result of broad based growth. It's not any one market. Granted, we see extreme growth in China in three years, which is good, a $2 billion market. But it's not just China," Halstrom says. "We have growth in Korea. Korea's been amazing. We have growth in places like Philippines, Vietnam, Columbia. So the broad base growth, not overly reliant on any one market has just been a key.

"That's with food service in Asia, for most of 2022, crippled due to COVID. So, that would be a good example where I think there's a tailwind coming into 2023, where food service in Asia, we might see some pretty spectacular things."

Overall, Halstrom says he sees growth opportunity for U.S. red meat at the start of the new year as Asian consumers return to restaurants and retail under easing COVID restrictions.

Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation

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