COVID-19

U.S. meat is increasingly being shipped to China, Reuters analysis shows

Nova Safo, David Brancaccio, and Alex Schroeder May 11, 2020
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Smithfield, which is now owned by a Chinese firm, was the biggest exporter of American pork to China in the first quarter. Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

U.S. meat is increasingly being shipped to China, Reuters analysis shows

Nova Safo, David Brancaccio, and Alex Schroeder May 11, 2020
Heard on:
Smithfield, which is now owned by a Chinese firm, was the biggest exporter of American pork to China in the first quarter. Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

We’ve been reporting on shortages in U.S. supermarkets with meat processing plants closed after workers were getting sick from the coronavirus.

Now, data has emerged that U.S. meat is still being shipped overseas, especially to China.

China has been ramping up its purchases of American meat products, because it’s faced its own shortages “due to a pig disease called African swine fever that’s led to the death of half the country’s herd over the past two years,” Reuters reports.

Also, in January, the Trump administration signed a deal to ease the trade war with China, and that included commitments from the Chinese to buy more American farm exports.

According to government data analyzed by Reuters, China has been buying.

Pork supplies are down about 40% since mid-March in the U.S., but pork shipments to China have quadrupled in that same time period. About a third of all U.S. produced pork has been exported so far this year.

President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act last month to keep meat plants open to bolster U.S. supplies. How does that square with what the data is showing?

If you look at the first quarter, January to March, the company Smithfield, which is owned by a Chinese firm, was the biggest exporter of American pork to China. Keep in mind, there are things being shipped that Americans don’t eat, such as pig’s feet.

Smithfield says it’s now retooling one of its plants here in the U.S. to make more meat for American consumers. Another major meat processor, JBS, says it has reduced its exports to meet U.S. demand.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.