While American consumers are buying more pork, this growing demand is largely due to overseas, according to The Maschhoffs’ co-owner and vice president Julie Maschhoff. She added that this is making trade agreements increasingly important to family farms and pork producers, reported St. Louis Business Journal. About 25% of the company’s pork is exported overseas, with some of the company’s best trading partners being Japan, Canada and Mexico. Maschhoff notes, “We want to make sure we have the systems and the agreements in place, so we can continue to have those sales overseas.” Asia, Africa and China are areas to watch, she says, as rising incomes and an interest in improved diets may boost the popularity of American pork.
Exports of pork and pork-related products total over 2.2 million metric tons annually, according to the National Pork Producers Council. This represents more than 26% of U.S. production, and these exports add more than $62 to the value of each hog marketed. Nationwide, more than 68,000 pork producers annually market more than 110 million hogs.
While it’s undeniable that overseas sales are important, producers are also working on ways to increase consumption here in the U.S. One way is by marketing new cuts of pork, besides the traditional chops, loin and, of course, bacon. Pork belly is starting to move into the mainstream in America, presenting itself as a sort of “bigger, badder bacon,” according to Arby’s Restaurant Group’s head of product development Jim Taylor. Pork belly’s presence on U.S. menus has more than doubled since 2012, running the gamut from fine dining restaurants to food trucks.