The COVID-19 pandemic, an uncertain economy, and logistics problems like port closings and shipping bottlenecks haven’t slowed the tremendous demand for U.S. poultry and eggs around the world.

Exports of U.S. broiler chicken and shell eggs set records in the first half of 2021 and are on pace to break all-time marks for the year, according to the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council (USAPEEC), citing government trade data.

Total broiler export volume reached an all-time high for the January through June period, with Mexico, China, Cuba, and Philippines leading the way. Cuba, and Philippines set records for both the volume and value of U.S. chicken imports, while Mexico and China set a record for the value of their imports.

The four markets together accounted for 49.2 percent of total U.S. chicken exports.

Exports of U.S. table eggs set an all-time record in the first half of this year in volume and were the second highest ever in value. Table egg exports to South Korea were the highest ever in both volume and value in the first half, while shipments to Mexico and Hong Kong were the second highest.

“Despite all of the issues that our industry has had to face over the last year and more, the export side has come through in record-setting fashion,” said USAPEEC President Jim Sumner.

“This is a testament to the capabilities and efforts of our industry, and it speaks to the needs and desires of consumers around the world for U.S. poultry and eggs. Chicken is the world’s leading meat protein and eggs are a fundamental part of the diet of many people.”

While not registering all-time records, exports of U.S. turkey grew in both volume and value for the first six months of 2021 as well, according to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

Breaking down the numbers, broiler exports for the first six months totaled 1,856,027 metric tons, up 6.8 percent from the same period of last year, while export value reached $2.136 billion, an increase of 21.1 percent. About 49.2 percent went to Mexico, China, Cuba, and Philippines.

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Shipments to Cuba rose by 96.6 percent to 163,366 tons and, with continuing demand, will mean an all-time record this year. Exports to Cuba would likely have been even greater had it not been for the impact of the pandemic, which hurt the country’s critical tourism industry and economy.

Exports to Mexico rose thanks to increased use of chicken in deli items and greater consumption of U.S. chicken breast and wings, according to USAPEEC’s Mexico office.

Exports to China increased by 5.9 percent to 217,020 tons (of which 59.6 percent or 129,425 metric tons were chicken paws. The U.S. is the second largest supplier of chicken to China, and the leading supplier of paws. The market began to receive U.S. poultry exports again in 2020 after a five-year ban.

Exports to South Korea, Mexico, and Hong Kong propelled U.S. table eggs. First half shipments set an all-time high at 98.6 million dozen. 

Overall table egg imports by Hong Kong declined in the first six months due to the effects of the pandemic on its hotel and restaurant industry. Yet, U.S. table egg exports to Hong Kong rose 6 percent in that time.

USAPEEC staff in the market attribute that gain to the high price of eggs from China which is the largest egg supplier to Hong Kong.  China’s share of the market has declined in the first half while U.S. imports have increased its market share to 20.2 percent. Growth is expected to continue for the rest of the year.

The Mexican market for U.S. table eggs has always been dependent on price. Now, however, some distributors are choosing them for their quality as well, leading to an increase in imports.

Total U.S. egg exports (table eggs plus egg products in shell egg equivalent) for the first half of 2021 increased by 18.1 percent to 170.0 million dozen. The value of those exports grew by 37.1 percent to $154.3 million. 

Cumulative turkey exports for the first half of this year were 124,008 metric tons, up 3.3 percent from the same period a year earlier. Export value reached $259.1 million, up 5.1 percent, with Mexico the leading market. Turkey exports increased even though production was lower during the period.