NORMAL, Ill. — U.S. exports of meat hit a record in 2012, and the value of products sold in 2013 is predicted to surpass that achievement.

“In 2012, we exported $5.5 billion of beef and $6.2 billion of pork, and year to date, we’re running ahead of that,” said Dan Halstrom, senior vice president of global marketing and communication at the U.S. Meat Export Federation. “We will have a new record this year in value exported and it will be north of $12 million.”

For the amount of beef that is exported, the U.S. continues to work to return to levels that were exported prior to 2003 when a case of bovine spongiform encephalitis was discovered in the U.S.

“BSE did help us to diversify markets,” explained Halstrom during a presentation at the Connect with Your Customer 2013 Illinois Commodity Conference.

“We were heavily concentrated in four to five markets in 2003,” he reported. “We’re now more concentrated in 10 to 12 markets, so it probably worked to our advantage.”

The real success for beef exports this year has been Japan.

“In February, we moved from 20 months to 30 months of age for the requirement to Japan, and that meant we went from 20 to 25 percent of our cattle qualifying for export up to 95 percent qualifying,” Halstrom said.

When the requirement was for cattle under 20 months of age, a lot of the retailers in Japan couldn’t get supply from the U.S. year around.

“Now we’re taking market share back from Australia,” Halstrom noted. “Our market share has climbed from 27 to 37 percent.”

U.S. beef now is being marketed through Japanese food service, family-style dining, regional supermarket chains and convenience stores.

“There are 55,000 convenience stores in Japan,” Halstrom said. “That’s a huge outlet for U.S. beef and pork and we’re seeing an increasing share in that sector.”

In July, the USMEF hosted a symposium in Japan that included 700 people.

“It was a reintroduction of U.S. beef into Japan and it was a successful event,” the USMEF spokesman said.

The value of exports to U.S. cattlemen is $216 per head, Halstrom reported.

“The percent of beef production exported is 13 to 14 percent. However, there’s a huge percentage of production that goes into ground beef,” he said. “Very little ground beef is exported so if you take that number out it is closer to 22 percent of beef exported.”

And for some specific cuts, very high percentages are exported, including beef tongue, 90 percent; tripe, 75 to 80 percent; and short ribs, 90 percent, the USMEF senior vice president noted.

Currently, China is not importing any U.S. beef.

“Australia is making huge inroads in China especially for beef,” Halstrom reported. “Our government is getting closer to an agreement and maybe by the second quarter of 2014 we will be back into China.”

Mexico continues to be a solid market for U.S. beef.

“This market was the least effected by BSE in 2003 and the quickest to reopen markets,” Halstrom noted. “We have a lot of success with new products like the chuck tender and the Select grade, as well.”

The Middle East includes 18 countries and 400 million people.

“With the exception of one country, this market is open to all cattle, all ages and it is the largest market for ungraded beef,” the speaker said.

Central and South America are growing markets for U.S. beef.

“We had virtually zero business in Peru, Chile and Columbia five years ago,” Halstrom said. “We have free trade agreements kicking in that have lower duty rates, so we’re really seeing business take off.”

In July, USMEF hosted its third annual two-day showcase in Guatemala, which included 81 buyers from 10 countries, as well as 85 exporters.

“There are two purposes, education about what is U.S. beef and pork, the grading system and production practices,” the USMEF spokesman said. “The second purpose is the showcase for buyers to come together.”

Peru importers specialize in variety meats.

“Virtually 100 percent of the beef tripe comes from the U.S. and it is worth almost $1.75 per pound,” the USMEF spokesman reported. “It would probably be worth about 50 cents per pound if we only shipped tripe to U.S. markets.”

U.S. pork exports have been a steady success story, Halstrom noted.

“From 26 to 28 percent of the U.S. production is exported and that has really taken off over the last five years,” he added.

“In 2012, the value of exports to U.S. producers was $56 per head and in 2013 the value totals $54 per head,” the USMEF senior vice president said. “A lot of that decline is Japan being down.”

Twenty-five countries now are exporting pork to Japan, the speaker noted.

“There’s margin in Japan,” he said.

The Chinese market is open to U.S. pork imports. There are almost 170 cities in this country that include more than 1 million people.

“The opportunities are endless, especially as it relates to safe food supplies,” the speaker said.

The ASEAN region, which includes the Philippines, likes to purchase products from breed specific programs such as Duroc Pork or Berkshire Pork, Halstrom noted.

Last year, the U.S. exported red meat to 127 countries, Halstrom said, and USMEF expects exports to continue to grow, due to several reasons including population growth and gross domestic product growth.

“Not all countries are growing at 2 percent like the U.S.,” the speaker said. “A lot of markets are growing quickly like Panama at 12 percent, Egypt at 4.5 percent and China at 8 percent and as they have more disposable income they want better quality products.”

Another important factor is lack of self sufficiency.

“Mexico is 68 percent self sufficient in pork and 50 percent for beef,” Halstrom said. “There is nothing but potential for meat exports as we go forward.”