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Hungry for more: The growing appetite for U.S. meat

The hunger for U.S. meat continues to rise overseas, according to John Hinners and Greg Tyler, who spoke at the 2022 Northern Corn and Soy Expo.

Northern Corn and Soy Expo talk
Greg Tyler and John Hinners spoke at the 2022 Northern Corn and Soybean Expo. They discussed the rising demand for U.S. meat and the current export markets. Photo taken Feb. 21, 2022, in Fargo, North Dakota.
Emily Beal / Agweek

FARGO — The demand for U.S. meat exports continues to steadily increase, as many countries' appetite for American red meats and poultry grows.

Both John Hinners, senior vice president of U.S. Meat Export Federation, and Greg Tyler, chief operating officer of USA Poultry & Egg Export Council, shed a light on the topic at the 2022 Northern Corn and Soy Expo, which was held Feb. 21 in Fargo North Dakota.

A hearty appetite

The United States is the No. 1 poultry producer in the world, raising a variety of birds for consumers to prepare for their dinner tables. Poultry offers consumers a cheaper choice in protein, making it the most consumed protein source in the world.

“Poultry is going to continue to grow, just as the demand for poultry meat around the world continues to grow,” Tyler said.

The natural preference for U.S. consumers in poultry is breast meat. Therefore, the dark meat is exported overseas and plays an important role in the poultry exporting market. China plays a part in terms of poultry exports, specifically due to the country’s consumer demand for chicken paws.

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“Chicken feet are a very popular item with the Chinese consumers. In normal circumstances, those chicken paws may go to rendering plants for pet food here in the United States,” Tyler said.

Greg Tyler speaks
An Attendee of the 2022 Northern Corn and Soy Expo listens to Greg Tyler speak about U.S. poultry exports. Photo taken Feb. 21, 2022, in Fargo, North Dakota.
Emily Beal / Agweek

By sending the chicken paws overseas to China, poultry producers can receive $2 a pound for the item, whereas if the paws were to be taken to the rendering plant, the producer would only receive about seven cents per pound.

“It's a big market for the U.S. and as a result relies heavily on that market,” He said.

Poultry is not the only industry that relies on selling various meat cuts or items that many Americans would deem undesirable to foreign markets. Variety meats, such as beef tongue, stomach of an animal, pork liver and more are exported overseas.

“When we think about exporting meat, traditionally what comes to mind is ‘are we sending all the good steaks out of the United States?’ And that could not be farther from the truth,” Hinners said. “Anytime we can add value by exporting those varieties of meat cuts by exporting those to different markets where they find a great need or desire and are willing to pay more than we are … we’re going to add value to that carcass.”

Hinners also said both beef and pork exports are hitting record exports so far this year, a welcomed sight to beef and pork producers. Hinners expects the demand for beef to continue to rise in years to come.

“There’s always going to be a demand for American-raised beef. When you look at the growing middle class around the world, they’re going to want to eat higher on the food chain,” he said.

Disease

John Hinners speaks
John Hinners spoke about the growing U.S. red meat exports at the Northern Corn and Soy Expo. Photo taken Feb. 21, 2022, in Fargo, North Dakota.
Emily Beal / Agweek

The recent outbreak of avian flu could have a heavy impact on the United State’s exports in the future, as cases could continue to rise. The United States is already seeing roadblocks in export markets to Mexico, as they have prohibited poultry from the states of Indiana and Kentucky.

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Indiana is the first state to have a case of avian flu. Indiana is a big poultry state, coming in at No. 2 for turkey production. The state of Kentucky, a large producer of chicken, also has reported cases.

However, egg exports have risen from 3% of production being exported closer to 5%, according to Tyler, due to other countries being hit hard by avian influenza.

“A lot of that has to do with avian influenza hitting those big markets like Korea. South Korea has been decimated by avian influenza, and as a result they’ve had to try to replace a lot of those table eggs that they have lost,” he said.

African swine fever impacted the poultry exporting markets greatly, as many countries significantly decreased their pork consumption.

“In some markets like the Philippines, where its a major pork consumer, the Philippines' consumers are looking for alternative forms of protein, and poultry is that one that they’re looking to,” Tyler said.

The U.S. had a record exporting year of poultry to the Philippines due to the disease.

Telling our story

Marketing the U.S.'s meat and its producers is a key component in creating a successful exporting market to other countries.

“As consumers become well educated about where their products are coming from, they want to know more about the product. How was it raised? How was it fed? Was it raised in a sustainable environment?” Hinners said.

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According to Hinners, there is a constant effort to educate consumers overseas about American agriculture and to build the trust between producer and consumer. This helps consumers in understanding where their food comes from and in return they will want to keep purchasing those American meat products. Successful marketing could also allow U.S. meats to get their foot in the door in other countries where there may not be a strong export market currently.

Corn and soybean impact

Both the poultry industry as well as the red meat industry are strong and important partners to the corn and soybean industries.

“The poultry industry is basically like flying soybeans and corn. About 55% of the soybean meal produced here in the United states and about a third of the corn are consumed by the U.S. poultry and ag industry,” Tyler said.

The average lifespan for those poultry products is six to eight weeks, with a constant turnover. Due to this, there is a strong demand for poultry feed. The constant need for corn and soybeans at a high and constant rate helps both industries.

“Just on the red meat exports of beef and pork, we’re able to add value to the corn and soybean industry,” Hinners said.

Emily grew up on a small grains and goat farm in southern Ohio. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she moved to Fargo, North Dakota to pursue a career in ag journalism with Agweek. She enjoys reporting on livestock and local agricultural businesses.
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