US meat exports are on the rise, even though the industry is struggling to satisfy domestic demand due to coronavirus outbreaks at processing plants that have sickened hundreds of employees and forced companies to search for better conditions. Although the situation may trigger alarm that American workers are sacrificing their safety to satisfy international demand, experts say it shouldn’t be because most of the meat sold to other countries is cuts that Americans don’t usually consume. And at least one of the four major processors claims exports since the pandemic have been reduced.
According to industry officials, if businesses manage to keep their workers safe and plants running there will be plenty of supply to fulfill domestic and international customers. Meat exports, especially pork exports to China, have risen significantly over the first three months of the year. This was partly due to several new trade agreements concluded prior to the coronavirus outbreak that led to the temporary closure of dozens of U.S. meat packing plants in April and May and increased absenteeism at many plants that reduced their output.
The Meat Export Federation said that in the first three months of the year, pork exports jumped by 40% and beef exports rose by 9 per cent. Meanwhile, chicken exports rose in the first quarter by 8 per cent. Full figures were not yet available for April, but figures for the last week of April from the Department of Agriculture indicate that exports of pork jumped by 40% as shipments to China and Japan increased and exports to Mexico increased.