Annual trade statistics reported here are finalized each spring.
In addition, Livestock & Meat International Trade Data
contains monthly and annual data for imports and exports of live
cattle, hogs, sheep, and goats, as well as beef and veal, pork,
lamb and mutton, chicken meat, turkey meat, and eggs. The tables
report physical quantities, not dollar values or unit prices. Data
on beef and veal, pork, and lamb and mutton are on a
carcass-weight-equivalent basis. Breakdowns by country are
Since the beginning of the century, the United States has been
one of the top five annual pork exporters in the world, shipping
over 4 billion pounds (carcass weight equivalent, or cwe) of fresh
and frozen pork cuts to foreign markets. The United States is a
relatively recent entrant to the international pork market,
becoming a net exporter in 1995. Since 2000, net exports have
increased nearly eleven-fold.
Becoming a net exporter is one result of significant structural
changes affecting the U.S. pork industry in recent years. Since the
mid-1980s, the industry has moved away from a structure based on
many small, independently owned hog operations. The industry has
gradually moved toward fewer, larger operations that rely on
contracting and vertical coordination to reduce producer risk and
optimize a year-round processing capacity that can accommodate
cyclically large fall and winter slaughters.
The restructured U.S. pork industry produces more pork with
fewer sows. Such production gains derive from lower costs of
realized scale economies, producer adoption of improved swine
genetics, and new, innovative swine management techniques. Since
the early 1990s, these productivity gains have allowed the industry
to export a higher percentage of commercial pork--reaching 14
percent in 2007, compared with 2 percent in 1990.
Primary markets for U.S. pork products are Japan (which accounts
for about one-third of U.S. exports), Mexico, and Canada. The
primary competitors of the United States in foreign markets are
Canada, Denmark, and Brazil.
Since the turn of the century, Japan has imported about equal
shares of fresh chilled pork and frozen pork products. Japan's
fresh pork has been supplied primarily by the United States. For
frozen pork, Denmark has been Japan's primary supplier, followed by
the United States and Canada. Imported fresh pork products (higher
priced cuts such as loins) are typically marketed through retail
channels in Japan, while frozen pork cuts (mainly boneless bellies
and shoulders) are used as inputs for processed pork products.
Mexico has been the second-largest export market for the United
States. Mexican demand for U.S. pork products appears to be
sensitive to changes in income. The following chart shows the
decline in U.S. exports that accompanied the Mexican Peso crisis in
1995, followed by the slow recovery of the Mexican economy and
increased demand for U.S. pork products. However, negative growth
of the Mexican economy during the early 2000s brought about a
slowdown in U.S. pork exports, rather than a decline. From 2003
forward, positive economic growth and Mexican demand for imported
pork accelerated simultaneously.
Canada has been the third-largest foreign market for U.S. pork
products. Higher Canadian demand for U.S. pork cuts in recent years
has been accompanied by significant expansion in the Canadian pork
industry. Greater flows of U.S. pork to Canada, despite higher
Canadian production, are largely attributable to two factors.
First, Canadian traders export Canadian pork cuts into lucrative
foreign markets, thereby "shorting" the domestic market.
Competitively priced U.S. pork cuts thus flow north to meet
Canadian consumer demand. Second, economic forces are pushing U.S.
and Canadian food industries closer together. A North American pork
industry will continue to develop as prices and policies cause
decisionmakers to increasingly ignore national borders.
The United States has accounted for a diminishing share of world
pork imports as U.S. imports fall and world trade expands. The
United States now accounts for less than 10 percent of total global
imports. The lion's share of U.S. pork imports originates from
Canada and Denmark. In recent years, more than four-fifths of U.S.
imports came from Canada, while Denmark accounted for about
one-tenth. However, Canada's preeminence as a supplier to the
United States is a recent development. As recently as 1985, Denmark
and Canada each supplied about two-fifths of U.S. pork imports.
What has changed? First, the significant expansion of the
Canadian pork industry in the last decade has enabled it to supply
pork cuts to fill deficit U.S. markets. Also, a number of factors
have combined to lower overall costs of trading with Canada,
relative to Denmark. The North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA), relatively low transportation costs, and cross-border
investments have together accelerated the rate of integration in
the North American pork and foodservice industries. Nevertheless,
Denmark is likely to be a presence in the U.S. market for some
time, simply because it is a relatively low-cost supplier of ribs,
a cut for which American consumer appetites seem insatiable.
The United States is a large net importer of hogs, with trade
moving from north to south. Significant numbers of live hogs are
imported from Canada--most of which are likely to be feeder
animals, while U.S. hogs are exported sporadically to Mexico.
Exports. Since the mid-1980s, Mexico has been
the destination of over three-fourths of U.S. hog exports, while
less than one-fourth went to Asia. Slightly more than
three-quarters of U.S. hog exports were slaughter animals (animals
weighing more than 50 kilograms) and about one-tenth were
classified as breeding animals.
Since 2003, nearly all hogs sent to Mexico have been slaughter
hogs. Mexican demand for U.S. hogs tends to be strongest in the
fourth quarter of the year, when U.S. slaughter hog numbers
typically achieve annual highs and live hog prices fall to annual
Imports. Canada is by far the most important
exporter of live hogs to the United States. Since 1989, Canadian
hogs have composed the majority of hogs imported into the United
States. The following chart shows two important features of
Canadian hog exports. First, the number of hogs imported annually
from Canada has increased more than fivefold since 1989. Second,
the feeder pig component of those imports has almost quadrupled.
Canadian feeder pigs have clearly evolved into a key component of
the U.S. pork industry.
In recent years, many factors have converged to create strong
incentives for Canadian producers to export feeder pigs to the
United States. Among the most important elements was the drive by
the Canadian Government to curb expenditures in the 1990s,
including abolishing the Crow Rate grain-transport subsidy in 1995.
Eliminating this subsidy had two important effects. First, without
the transport subsidies, producers in the Western provinces had an
incentive to use grain for livestock production. Second, lower
agricultural subsidies in Canada resulted in reduced U.S.
countervailing duties on imported Canadian hogs. These policy
changes created powerful incentives for the Canadian pork industry
On the U.S. side, factors such as available slaughter capacity,
dependable feed supplies, and environmental regulation favoring the
construction of hog-finishing facilities in Corn Belt States
coalesced to generate significant U.S. demand for Canadian feeder
pigs. The trend is likely to continue.