Slowing beef imports lead to smaller U.S. supplies, drive up prices
September 20, 2021 by USDA Economic Research Service
Reduced supplies and rising demand for ground beef in the United States could potentially be reflected in the cost of fall tailgating parties across the Nation. While the United States is a major global supplier of beef, it also imports beef and processing-grade beef (used for ground beef) to meet a growing consumer demand. Historically, Australia is the predominant supplier of processing-grade beef to the United States, with smaller amounts coming from Brazil, Canada, and New Zealand, among other countries. As Australia rebuilds its cattle herd after a two-year drought, suppliers in that country are curtailing slaughter, limiting the amount of exportable beef and increasing the prices of those exports. In February 2021, imports from Australia reached a price of $240 per hundredweight (cwt) for 90-percent lean beef, and the volume dropped to under 17 million pounds, almost 27 million pounds lower than the 5-year average. In July 2021, that price rose to $274 per cwt. From January to July 2020, beef imports from Australia accounted for 20 percent of all U.S. beef imports whereas in 2021 Australia accounted for 12 percent. Intermittent monthly imports from other countries have partly offset reduced imports from this key partner. Meanwhile, as the economy reopens, the demand for beef and ground beef is expected to support beef prices.