B+LNZ’s Trade Policy team provide an update for farmers on the United States (US) trade market, ongoing work with B+LNZ’s US counterparts, and potential US trade action.
The US red meat market
The United States (US) is a key market for both beef and sheepmeat exports, with 36% of New Zealand beef exports by value heading to the US in 2023 and 15% of sheepmeat exports.
New Zealand’s beef exports are mainly frozen manufacturing beef, which is blended with US fatty trim and blended into hamburger meat. This provides a consistent and valuable market for lean beef originating from our dairy industry and also supports US cattle farmers to obtain higher prices for their animals as more of their animal can be utilised.
New Zealand’s high quality chilled beef is also finding a niche market amongst US consumers who are searching for grass-fed, high animal welfare, products. Over the last few years, we have seen exports of chilled beef to the US increase from $52 million in 2019 to NZ $133 million in 2023.
While sheepmeat consumption per capita in the US is relatively low, it is growing quickly and there are significant opportunities identified for market growth. In 2023, New Zealand exported 27,500 tonnes of sheepmeat to the US, worth NZ$544 million. This was slightly down from a record level of exports in 2022. However, the US was still one of New Zealand's highest value markets in 2023, with exports worth $18.04/kg (FoB), compared to an average of 9.67/kg across all our export markets that year .
Working with B+LNZ’s US counterparts
Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) engages directly with its US counterparts in the sheep and beef industries and recently attended the American Sheep Industry (ASI) convention held in early January in Colorado.
At this year’s convention, B+LNZ, along with Sheep Producers Australia, were invited to present to the American Lamb Board (ALB) on sustainability.
B+LNZ Senior Environmental Policy Analyst, Madeline Hall, who attended along with B+LNZ’s US Relationship Manager, Jason Frost, provided an overview of B+LNZ’s activities and outlined the challenges and opportunities our sector was facing domestically. Bonnie Skinner, CEO of Sheep Producers Australia, provided a similar perspective from Australia.
The US Sheep Industry, through ALB and the ASI are part of the Global Sheep Forum (GSF) which also includes industry organisations across Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK. This year, the GSF launched the Generation Next Sheep Programme, which will bring together young leaders in the sheep industry from each country to learn from each other, gain an understanding of sheep farming systems in each country, and build connections between partner countries. Applications for the programme are now open, apply here.
US lamb trade action
B+LNZ is happy to report of that one of two recent trade actions that were launched by separate US producer organisations to restrict New Zealand lamb imports into America has been dropped.
Last year, the American Sheepmeat Industry Association (ASI) engaged a law firm to explore their allegations of harm from New Zealand and Australian sheepmeat imports. At the ASI Convention and then in subsequent media reports, ASI leadership indicated that they would not further pursue any action against Australia and New Zealand. The costs of action were deemed to outweigh any benefit the US industry would gain. While this is a welcome development, B+LNZ along with MIA are keeping abreast of developments.
R-CALF, an organisation that represents both US sheepmeat and cattle producers, separately petitioned the US Trade Representative (USTR) to launch an investigation into New Zealand and Australian sheepmeat imports. At this stage there has not been any comment from USTR on whether or not it will proceed with an investigation. Despite this, we continue to work closely with New Zealand officials and MIA to reduce the risk to New Zealand farmers and processors.
Since B+LNZ received reports of the petition, we have been working closely with the Meat Industry Association (MIA) to understand the issue and to reduce the risk to New Zealand farmers and processors. Together, B+LNZ and MIA have worked closely with the New Zealand Government to provide officials with relevant information to support their discussions with US officials.
Our view on both of the trade issues is that many of the challenges that the US sheep industry faces, such as internal parasites, rising input costs, and competition from other land uses, are also common to New Zealand farmers and we should be working together to address them. The US currently has a low per capita consumption of lamb, although this is rapidly changing and provides opportunities for both domestic and imported sheepmeat. By working together to grow the market for lamb in the US, there is plenty of room for both imported and domestically produced lamb.
B+LNZ’s Trade policy team will continue to monitor the situation and look to further increase cooperation with US sheep producers on areas where we have mutual interest. We are keeping a close eye on trade policy sentiment as the US elections approach in 2024.
Learn more about B+LNZ’s trade policy work
Visit B+LNZ website here to find out how B+LNZ is working to improve access for New Zealand’s sheep and beef products to overseas markets.