U.S. pork exports have made great strides in growth, expanding from 86 million lb. carcass weight in 1986 to 3 billion lb. in 2006, according to an analysis of data by the National Pork Board, the University of Missouri and an independent consultant.

“The growth of exports is good news for pork producers,” reports Glenn Grimes, an agricultural economist with the University of Missouri. “It has had great impact on their income.”

The pork checkoff-funded study was conducted by Grimes, Ron Plain, professor at the University of Missouri, and Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics, based in Adel, IA.

The value of pork and pork byproducts grew from $1.97/hog slaughtered in 1986 to $27.34/hog sold in 2006. These changes have allowed the pork industry to grow at an additional rate of about 0.8%/year, on average, over the last 21 years.

“In other words, the U.S. pork industry was about 16 million head larger in 2006 than it would have been had pork exports remained at 1986 levels,” explains Grimes. “Not only has the increase in the quantity of pork traded allowed the industry to grow without lowering prices, but it has also added to producers’ incomes in the years when net exports grew.”

Japan was the largest U.S. pork customer in 2006, purchasing nearly 34% of pork exports.

“We believe the total income of all U.S. pork producers has been improved by $7.4 billion over the last 21 years by the increase in exports,” says Grimes.