Putting more U.S. pork on the world’s table

Agrinews Publications

CHICAGO — Pork exports are important to U.S. producers since 91 percent of the pork consumed in the world occurs outside of the United States.

“That is why we’re focused on consumers around the world,” said Craig Morris, vice president of international marketing for the National Pork Board. “The export market is an integral part of U.S. producer returns.”

In 1995, the United States crossed the threshold of being a net importer of pork to a net exporter, Morris said during a presentation at the Expanding Food Trade: Ways to Innovate and Thrive meeting hosted by the Global Midwest Alliance.

“As of 2017, we were the No. 2 exporter in the world, and with the 2018 trends, we are set to take the No. 1 place away from the European Union as the largest exporter of pork in the world,” he said. “We produce almost one-third of all the pork going into the international marketing channels.”

Last year was a record year for U.S. pork exports, Morris said.

“In 2017, 26.6 percent of the pounds of pork produced in the U.S. were exported, and that accounted for $53.47 per head,” he said.

By value, Japan, which buys lots of chilled pork loins, is the largest market for U.S. pork.

“Mexico is our No. 2 value market and largest volume market,” Morris said. “Forty percent of U.S. hams are being shipped into Mexico.”

About 82 percent of the pork variety meats produced in the U.S. goes into export markets.

“China last year accounted for $6 of $53.47 just for variety meat exports,” Morris said. “Last year, we exported $1.17 billion of variety meats, which are products that wouldn’t bring near that value in any other market.”

A Bigger Slice

For the first quarter of 2018, he said, the volume of pork going into Mexico is down, but the value is up.

“South Korea has been the market driver for us this year,” he said. “We are seeing a dietary pattern shift, so consumers are eating more pork.”

As a result, the Pork Board is doing a variety of activities to make sure that consumers in South Korea understand that U.S. pork works well in their kitchens.

“We’re getting out of the business of direct consumer advertising in the U.S., and we are refocusing those resources on international marketing activities,” Morris said. “This is a recognition of what’s going on around the world.”

Pork is the leading protein of choice throughout world, he said, and the U.S. pork industry is rapidly expanding.

“The trade policy environment is challenging, so we trying to analyze what we can do to have the best return on investment to producers,” he said.

“Our domestic market activities return $8 for every $1 invested, and internationally the ROI is $25 for every $1 invested,” he said. “The international market is the way to build demand for U.S. pork and keep producers profitable.”

The Pork Board now is focused on international markets as seriously as it has historically worked to develop domestic markets.

“It is more than just understanding where the markets are and what products are going there; it’s understanding what drives consumer behavior in those markets,” Morris said.

Competitive Edge

Checkoff dollars can be venture capital and be used to invest in projects that have long term return on investment, he said.

“In 2019, you will see more investment in South America, Central America and the Caribbean region,” he said. “We had growth of 500 percent in Vietnam last year.”

The pork industry is more dependent on exports than the beef, turkey, chicken or lamb industries, Morris said.

“So, it is important for us to look not just one year ahead, but understand better long term where we are going with future demand for pork,” he said.

“Pork 2040 is foresight-based marketing study that is not just what the population is going to do,” he said. “It’s about dietary pattern shifts, at what point disposable income triggers increased consumption, at what point does the presence of social media impact consumers and what concerns do consumers have related to animal welfare.”

The study will look at possible markets that could develop for U.S. pork exports.

“Sub-Saharan Africa and India are markets we don’t have any exports flowing into today, but they could prove to be the most important markets for the U.S. pork industry in 20 years,” Morris said.

“We’re trying to make sure our investment provides a stable environment for our industry,” he said.

This article provided by NewsEdge.