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China’s interest in variety meats good for U.S.

Hog Outlook: China approves more U.S. pork establishments for export.

Kevin Schulz

December 11, 2023

2 Min Read
A bowl of crispy fried pig ear
EARS UP: Variety is good, and in some cultures, variety meats are the center of plate, such as this crispy pig ear salad. iStock/Getty Images Plus

Is China a ray of hope? There are not too many bright lights shining in the hog world right now, but news out of China may provide a little spark.

In late November, China’s General Administration of Customs gave approval to 12 U.S. pork establishments to export into China. This is the first time in about 10 months that U.S. plants have been cleared for export. On the beef side, 18 U.S. establishments were also approved for export to China.

What remains to be seen is if these latest approvals materialize into actual pork sales to China. Just having the door opened lets a little light in.

Chinese domestic pork supplies have dwindled due to the spread of African swine fever; thus, one would think there is opportunity for U.S. pork to help fill the void. However, need and want do not always turn into sales.

According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), pork variety meat exports to China were up 10% from a year ago for January to September. Both volume and value of those exports to China — 252,823 metric tons and $650.6 million, respectively — are steps in the right direction for U.S. pork.

This growth in China is impressive, and even more so, when one considers that U.S. pork is still subject to retaliatory duties.

Variety is where it’s at

While domestic pork consumption has room for growth, the export market without a doubt is just as important, and according to the USMEF, pork variety meat is where it’s at. While these products aren’t widely consumed in the United States, they are hot commodities elsewhere. Variety meats are nontraditional cuts from the hog, which may be discarded in the U.S. but are considered a delicacy in other countries.

Stressing the versatility of the hog, it has been said that we use everything but the squeal. Consumers in other countries, as well as various ethnic groups here in the United States, find places on their plates for hog ears, snouts, brains, intestines and everything in between.

Including the numbers heading to China mentioned above, total exports of the variety meats totaled 438,190 metric tons from January to September, up 15% from the same period a year ago. The value of those exports grew 13% to $1.03 billion.

That increase pushed pork export value per head slaughtered to $63.16, a record level. That is up 5% from a year ago, and nearly $11 is attributed to variety meats, according to the USMEF.

Getting full value for each hog is top of mind for every U.S. producer, and utilizing the entire carcass is the best way to achieve that goal. So, let’s look East to get more pork into China and other countries, whatever form that pork may take.

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Exports

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

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