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Vet Clin North Am Food Anim Pract. 2003 Jul;19(2):493-518.

International red meat trade.

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Department of Agricultural Economics and Economics, PO Box 172920, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717-2920, USA.


The maturation of the US beef and pork markets and increasing consumer demands for convenience, safety, and nutrition suggests that the beef and pork industries must focus on product development and promotion. New marketing arrangements are developing that help coordinate production with consumer demands. The relative high levels of incomes in the United States are likely to increase the demands for branded products rather than increase total per capita consumption. Foreign markets represent the greatest opportunity for increased demand for commodity beef and pork products. Increasing incomes in developing countries will likely allow consumers to increase consumption of animal-source proteins. Real prices of beef and pork have declined substantially because of sagging domestic demand and increasing farm-level production technologies. Increasing US beef and pork exports have obviated some of the price declines. Pork attained a net export position from a quantity perspective in 1995. The United States continues to be a net importer of beef on a quantity basis but is close to becoming a net exporter in terms of value. By-products continue to play a critical role in determining the red meat trade balance and producer prices. The United States, however, must continue to become cost, price, and quality competitive with other suppliers and must secure additional market access if it is to sustain recent trade trends. Several trade tensions remain in the red meat industry. For example, mandated COOL will undoubtedly have domestic and international effects on the beef and pork sectors. Domestically, uncertainty regarding consumer demand responses or quality perceptions regarding product origin, as well as added processor-retailer costs will be nontrivial. How these factors balance out in terms of benefits versus costs to the industry is uncertain. From an international perspective, some beef and pork export suppliers to the United States could view required labeling as a trade restriction, which could ultimately impact future US red meat exports. Conversely, some countries may view such labeling requirements as an opportunity to brand high-quality products. The US lamb meat industry has experienced declining real prices, domestic production, and demand. The cessation of wool incentive payments, increased environmental regulations, and competition by imports have significantly affected the industry. Import suppliers have capitalized on product quality in this niche market. Trade restrictions initially imposed in 1999 by the US Government were ruled illegal by the WTO. The US Government responded by providing financial assistance to lamb producers. Product quality improvements and promotion aimed at the domestic market, however, will be critical factors in shaping the economic viability of the US lamb meat industry.

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