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Email Content: Poultry Industry News, Comments and more by Simon M. Shane

U.S. Meat Exports


U.S. Broiler and Turkey Exports, January-August 2021.                   


Total exports of bone-in broiler parts and feet in January-August 2021 attained 2,473,865 metric tons, 6.6 percent more than during the first eight months of 2020 (2,321,115 metric tons). Total value of exports increased by 25.6 percent to $2,929 million ($2.333 million 2020).


Unit price is constrained by the fact that leg quarters comprise over 96 percent of broiler meat exports (excluding feet). In 2021 to date unit value of leg quarters has risen consistent with international demand. Despite the recent trend in unit price, leg quarters represent a relatively low-value commodity lacking in pricing power. Exporters of commodities are subjected to competition from domestic production in importing nations. Generic products such as leg quarters are vulnerable to trade disputes and embargos based on real or contrived disease restrictions.


The still uncontrolled outbreak of African swine fever in China and Southeast Asia from early 2019 onwards coupled with disruptions in chicken production during January and February 2020 due to COVID, increased demand for protein with international repercussions on trade in chicken and pork. This trend is abating as hog production is restored in China and overproduction is evident in the white-feathered broiler sector with implications for exports during the remainder of 2021 and for 2022.


During the first eight months of 2021 the National Chicken Council (NCC), citing USDA-FAS data, documented exports of 2,500,165 metric tons of chicken parts and other forms (whole and prepared) valued at $2,993 million with a weighted average unit value of $1,197 per metric ton, 17.8 percent higher in unit value than for the corresponding eight months of 2020 ($1,016 per metric ton).

The NCC breakdown of chicken exports during January-August 2021 by proportion and unit price for each broiler category compared with the corresponding period in 2020 (with the unit price in parentheses) comprised:-


  • Chicken parts                          95.8%;  Unit value $1,139 per metric ton  ($967)
  • Prepared chicken                      3.2%;  Unit value $2,917 per metric ton ($3,556)
  • Whole chicken                          1.0%;  Unit value $1,296 per metric ton  ($1,008) 



Direct comparisons between January-August 2020 and 2021 are not entirely valid. The USDA combined export quantities of feet with chicken meat from April 2020 onwards.



The following table prepared from USDA data circulated by the USAPEEC, compares values for poultry meat exports for January-August 2020 with 2021:-





      Jan.-Aug.  2020

        Jan.-Aug.   2021


Broiler Meat & Feet




Volume (metric tons)



+152,750   (+6.6%)

Value ($ millions)



     +596     (+25.5%)

Unit value ($/m. ton)



     +178     (+17.7%)

Turkey Meat




Volume (metric tons)



  +2,465    (+1.5%)

Value ($ millions)



      +46     (+12.4%)

Unit value ($/m. ton)



    +244     (+10.8%)

Chicken Paws




Volume (metric tons)


         Not disclosed


Value ($ millions)


         Not disclosed  


Unit value ($/m. ton)


           Not disclosed  


*See note concerning inclusion of feet in totals from April onwards in text above






Total broiler parts, predominantly leg quarters but including feet, exported during January-August 2021 as compared with the first eight months of 2020 increased by 6.6 percent in volume and 25.5 percent in value. Unit value was 17.7 percent higher at $1,183 per metric ton.


The top five importers of broiler meat represented 52.1 percent of shipments during the first eight months of 2021. The top ten importers comprised 68.5 percent of the total volume reflecting concentration among the significant importing nations.


For January-August 2021 Mexico was the largest importer of broiler meat from the U.S. by both volume and value with 558,167 metric tons representing 22.6 percent of volume and 19.5 percent of total value at a unit price of $1,023 per metric ton. Mexico increased volume in August 2021 by 22.1 percent over July 2020 with a disproportionate 85.0 percent increase in value to $70.5 million with a unit value of $1,120 per metric ton.


China was ranked 2nd by volume and value among importers of broiler parts and feet combined during January-August 2021. China represented 11.8 percent of export volume and 18.5 percent of value at an average unit price of $1,845 per ton indicating a high proportion of feet shipped. In August, China reduced volume (down 3.2 percent to 41,054 metric tons) compared to August 2020 but value was up a disproportional 25.9 percent to $81.1 million with a unit value of $1,975 suggesting a change in product mix or an escalation in unit price of feet. Future sales will be constrained by recovery of hog production and domestic white-feathered chicken production that is currently in oversupply


The relative volume of shipments of feet to Hong Kong and China during March and April 2020 imply that about half the consigned feet to Hong Kong prior to March of this year were trans-shipped to Mainland China. Based on frozen stock levels it is apparent that export of chicken meat to China continues at a moderate rate with the U.S. frozen inventory of leg quarters down 6.3 percent between August 31st 2020 and the end of August 2021 to 75.3 million lbs. The U.S. inventory of leg quarters decreased by 1.2 percent between July 31st 2021 and August 31st 2021. The U.S. inventory of frozen paws and feet increased over the period August 31st 2020 by 11.4 percent to 29.7 million lbs.


Data on April 2021 exports of chicken to China amounting to 35,147 metric tons comprised 62.5 percent paws; 30.0 percent bone-in legs; 6.5 percent edible by-products (necks, gizzards, livers and hearts) and 1.0 percent wings with an average unit price of $2,103 per metric ton. Data released by the General Administration of Customs of the Government of China do not correlate with USDA figures for individual products exported.


Cuba remained 3rd in rank for January-August 2021 with 8.5 percent of volume and 6.5 percent of value. Shipments were 85.0 percent higher compared to January-August 2020 at 209,262 metric tons. In August imports of 26,250 metric tons were up 79.5 percent over August 2020. It is hoped that this trade worth $191 million in 2019 and $144 million in 2020 will not be compromised by injudicious diplomatic activity or politically inspired restraints such as enforcement of the Helms-Burton Act or extreme restrictions on travel or remittances to families. This market is courted by both Brazil and Argentina. Cuba has lost financial support from Venezuela in addition to collapse of tourism due to COVID-19, reducing availability of foreign currency.


Philippines continued imports retaining 4th in rank with 120,745 metric tons valued at $111.8 million for January-August 2021. The unit value of $926 per ton reflects predominantly leg quarters combined with MDM. Inflation in the cost of protein in the Philippines was caused by mismanagement of African Swine Fever (ASF) by the Government. A protectionist import duty on pork was only reduced in early April from 30 percent to 5 percent. In August 2021 exports to the Philippines fell sharply to 9,507 metric tons but were up 26.7 percent as compared to August 2020. Shipments were down 29.3 percent from July 2021 with Philippines the 11th-ranked importer.  Given the difficulty of controlling ASF in the absence of an effective vaccine, Philippine exports will continue through the intermediate term.


Taiwan was the 5th ranked importer during January-August 2021 with 4.3 percent of U.S. export volume and 3.7 percent of value attributed to the product mix with a unit price of $1,021 per metric ton, suggesting leg quarters as the principal product. During January-August 2021 imports from the U.S. declined 39.3 percent in volume and 32.8 percent in value compared to the first eight months of 2020. Exports to 9th ranked Taiwan in August 2021 fell 33.1 percent to 10,848 metric tons compared to July 2020 with 16,205 metric tons.



Canada was the 6th ranked importer receiving 99,019 metric tons valued at $222.7 million with a unit value of $2,249 per metric ton indicating added-value product. In August 2021 exports to Canada declined 31.3 percent from August 2020.


Guatemala was 7th in rank during January-August with 94,855 metric tons representing 3.8 percent of export volume. Value was $111.8 million with a unit value of $1,178 per metric ton. In August 2021 volume and value were respectively 3.6 and 3.5 percent of exports


Among lower-ranked importers over the first eight months of 2021, Ghana imported 50,898 metric tons and Kazakhstan 48,388 metric tons, collectively representing 4.0 percent of export volume.


There is constant fluctuation among the ten, second-tier nations importing broiler meat with average monthly volumes ranging from 3,000 to 9,000 metric tons. Expanding volume is due to the promotional activities of USAPEEC and their regional representatives interacting with traders.


During January-August 2021 nations gaining in volume compared to the corresponding months in 2020 (with the percentage change indicated) in descending order of volume were:-

        Mexico, (+27%); China, (+4%); Cuba, (+85%); Philippines, (+166%);

         Guatemala, (+25%); Angola (+42%); Haiti, (+6%); Colombia, (+8%);

         Ghana, (+44%) and Kazakhstan, (+160%).


January-August 2021 gains were offset by losses in exports to:-

        Taiwan, (-39%); Viet Nam, (-37%); South Africa, (-21%); UAE, (-21%),

         Georgia, (-39%).


Hong Kong, was not among the top-20 importers June through August 2021.





The volume of turkey meat exported during January-August 2021 increased by 1.5 percent but value rose by 12.4 percent compared to January-August 2020 with an increase in average unit value of 10.5 percent from $2,268 per metric ton to $2,512 per metric ton. In August 2021 volume declined by 5.4 percent to 20,533 metric tons compared to August 2020 but value increased by 30.2 percent reflecting a 37.6 percent increase in unit value to $2,878 per metric ton.


Mexico, the leading importer received 68.5 percent of turkey meat shipped during the first eight months of 2021, amounting to 113,485 metric tons, 7.9 percent more than during 2020. Exports of turkey products to Mexico amounted to $282 million at a unit price of $2,486 per metric ton and represented 67.8 percent of the total value of $416.1 million shipped. Mexico maintained imports in August 2021 compared to August 2020 at 13,353 metric tons but the volume was 7.7 percent lower than in July 2021.


Benin was ranked a distant 2nd for the first eight months of 2021 with 5,052 metric tons at a unit value of $1,386 per metric ton, denoting low-value product. Of the eight-month period, volumes in 2021 included 463 metric tons in June, 628 metric tons in July and 794 metric tons in August. Continued exports to Benin will be a function of the porosity of the border with Nigeria, the ultimate destination of low-value turkey products, and the cost of “dash” for customs officials.


South Africa was 3rd ranked as an importer of turkey products for the first eight months of 2021 with a volume of 4,626 metric tons representing 2.8 percent of U.S. export volume and 1.9 percent of value at $7.9 million. Volume in August attained 499 metric tons with volume possibly constrained by the economic situation and port congestion.


Canada was the 4th ranked importer for January-August 2021 with 4,015 metric tons valued at $15.6 million with a unit price at $3,885 per metric ton. Volume and value for the first eight months of 2021 were relatively unchanged compared to January-August 2020. Canada did not rank among the top-6 importers of turkey products in August.


China imported 3,234 metric tons over the first eight months of 2021 down 70.2 percent in volume and 54.0 percent in value from the corresponding period in 2020.


During the first quarter of 2020 the U.S. concluded a limited trade agreement with Japan to place U.S. exporters on parity with E.U. competitors. This had the potential to restore the ranking of Japan as a significant importer. In 2019 turkey shipments to Japan were valued at $21.9 million but with a unit price of $4,153 per metric ton. Negligible exports were recorded during 2020 and January-August 2021 due to Japan sourcing from the E.U.


PROSPECTS FOR 2021 and 2022


The September 16th 2021 Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook Report, projected that broiler exports should attain 3.394 million metric tons (7,466 million lbs.) in 2021. This value represents 16.7 percent of the projected production of 20.352 million metric tons (44,7374 million lb.) of broiler RTC by the U.S. industry.


Exports of turkey products in 2021are projected at 258,000 metric tons, (568,000 million lbs.) or 10.1 percent of annual production of 2.559 million metric tons (5,629 million lbs.)


For 2022 the USDA projects export volumes for chicken products to increase by 1.3 percent to 3.368 million metric tons (7,410 million lbs.) Turkey exports will decrease by 0.8 percent to 264,000 metric tons (580,800 million lbs.).


The Administration successfully re-negotiated NAFTA into a new trilateral USMCA on September 30th 2018.This agreement has been ratified by legislatures of the three nations and took effect on July 1st 2020. It is important to recognize that exports of chicken and turkey meat products to our NAFTA partners amounted to $1.279 billion in 2018, $1.407 billion in 2019 and $1,264 in 2020, impacted by COVID. It will be important to respect the terms of the USMCA since punitive action against Mexico and Canada will result in reciprocal action by our trading partners to the detriment of the poultry and dairy industries. A meeting in Mexico City on the 1st anniversary of the USMCA allowed U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai to resolve issues with her counterparts representing Mexico and Canada


 The live-bird market system supplying metropolitan areas, our numerous backyard flocks, fighting cocks and commercial laying hens allowed outside access, potentially in contact with migratory birds, all represent an ongoing danger to the entire U.S. commercial industry. This is evidenced by recovery of H5N3 LPAI in March from both a live market in San Francisco County and the supply farm. This event impacted the export of products from the Port of Oakland to various Asian nations. The problem of trade embargos resurfaced this month following confirmation of a limited outbreak of low-pathogenicity H7 strain avian influenza in a multi-species farm in Stanislaus County, California. Importing nations have placed limited area and county-wide bans as a result. The live bird segments of poultry production place at risk the export eligibility of the broiler and turkey industries notwithstanding compartmentalization for breeders and regionalization for commercial production.

Copyright © 2021 Simon M. Shane