Beef Trade Remains Strong

The US continues to have a healthy and growing presence in the international beef trade, according to two October USDA reports.

The USDA’s Economic Research Service said August beef imports (the latest data) were down 49.979 million pounds, or 16.0% from 312.890 million a year earlier.

August’s beef exports, on the other hand, were 235.5 million pounds, 185.4 million, or 99.9%, ahead of last year’s 185.6 million.

For 2016, estimated US beef and veal imports were down 431 million pounds, or 12.8%, at 2.940 billion pounds from 2015’s total of 3.371 billion.  And 2017 and 2018 import estimates were down as well.

Beef imports from Australia continued to fall, coming in at 67.511 million pounds on a carcass weight basis, down 69.381 million, or 50.7%, from August 2015 when imports were 136.892 million.  Compared with July, imports from Australia were down 2.639 million pounds, or 3.76%, from 70.150 million.

With imports of 72.327 million pounds, August was the first month in more than two years that the US imported more beef from Canada than from Australia.  Year-over-year beef imports from Canada and Mexico continued to increase in August.

For the year to date, imports from Canada and Mexico were up 14% and 10%, respectively, while imports were down from every other major import source.




Year-to-date US beef exports have picked up steam late in the year.  Exports have grown to most major markets and were only lower to Canada and Hong Kong.

Through August, US beef and variety meat exports totaled 1.648 billion pounds, up 98 million, or 6.32%, from last year’s 1.550 billion.

On balance, net imports were only 35 million pounds in August, the smallest since December 2015, when exports exceeded imports.


Beef production was expected to increase in most major producing countries in 2017 by almost 1 million tonnes.  Production in Brazil is projected to grow by almost 200,000 tonnes, or about 2%, while US beef production was expected to increase by about 400,000 tonnes.

World beef trade also was expected to increase in 2017.  To fuel growing consumption, China alone was expected to import an additional 125,000 tonnes of beef, for a 15% increase.

The net change in 2016 US trade compared with 2015 due to the decline in imports and increase in exports has resulted in 405 million pounds less beef on the US market.

While beef production is up though the first 3 quarters of the year, total supplies were up only 628 million pounds.  When the growth in exports is included, the total available beef on the US market has only grown by about 528 million pounds.




Cash cattle markets Tuesday remained quiet with no defined bids and offers at $100 to $102 on a live basis and $156 to $158 dressed.

Cash markets last week traded lower at $98 per cwt on a live basis, down $4 to $5 from the previous week, and at $152 to $156 dressed, down $6.

The USDA’s choice cutout Tuesday was $1.25 per cwt lower at $181.30, while select was up $0.68 at $172.13.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $9.17 from $11.10 with 93 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle Index for the seven days ended Monday was $120.69 per cwt, down $1.23.  This compares with the Oct settlement Tuesday of $122.02, up $0.32.