China’s imports of U.S. Beef continue to increase. But how does the U.S. compare to other competing countries?

In a previous article, I highlighted that China’s demand for beef is breaking records and imports have increased to unprecedented levels in recent years. Since 2010, Chinese beef imports increased from about $100 million to nearly $16.6 billion by 2022 (nearly a 16,000% increase), making China the world’s largest beef importing country (Trade Data Monitor®, 2023; UN Comtrade, 2022). In years past, beef was not a major protein source in China, but economic growth and exposure to western diets has increased beef awareness. Due to several factors (higher incomes, health awareness, protein shortages due to African swine fever), Chinese consumers have diversified their diets away from pork, the traditional animal protein. Beef demand is outstripping supply in China, resulting in rising imports. As mentioned in the previous article, U.S. beef exports to China have significantly increased as a result. But how does the U.S. compare to other beef exporting countries in the Chinese market?

Figure 1 shows the value (in billions) of China’s beef imports by major exporting source: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Uruguay, United States, and Rest of WorldRest of World is an aggregation of all other countries. Note that Chinese imports of U.S. beef products in 2022 were $1.7 billion, making China a leading destination market for the U.S. From the Chinese perspective, however, this was about 10% of China’s total imports, making the U.S. China’s 4th leading supplier ahead of Australia ($1.5 billion, 9%) and New Zealand ($1.4 billion, 8%). The figure shows that South American countries are more dominant in the Chinese market (Argentina – $2.5 billion, 15%; Uruguay – $1.8 billion, 11%). This is especially true for Brazil. In 2022, China imported nearly $7.0 billion of beef products from Brazil. No other country comes close (40% of China’s beef imports). What’s interesting is that both Brazilian and U.S. beef were banned in China due to animal disease issues (e.g., FMD, BSE). While the U.S. recovery since 2017 has been noteworthy, Brazil’s recovery since 2014 has been quite extraordinary.

Figure 1. Chinese beef and beef product imports by exporting source: 2010-2022

Source: Trade Data Monitor®


UN Comtrade (2022). UN Comtrade Database

Trade Data Monitor (2023).

Muhammad, Andrew. China Emerges as a Leading Destination for U.S. Beef Exports. Southern Ag Today 2(49.4). December 1, 2022.

Author: Andrew Muhammad

Professor and Blasingame Chair of Excellence

The University of Tennessee

Muhammad, Andrew. “China’s imports of U.S. beef continue to increase. But how does the U.S. compare to other competing countries?Southern Ag Today 3(2.4). January 12, 2023. Permalink