Nearly all U.S. cattle imports originate from Canada and Mexico

A chart showing U.S. cattle trade, years 1989 to 2011.

The United States imports significantly greater numbers of cattle than it exports. U.S. cattle imports contribute an estimated monthly average of 8.1 percent of production to the U.S. beef supply. Because of concerns with animal health issues in originating countries, the United States restricts cattle imports from most countries. Cattle imports to the United States originate, almost exclusively, from Mexico and Canada because of these countries geographic proximity to U.S. markets and the complementarity of their cattle and beef sectors to that of the United States. Cattle imported from Mexico tend to be lighter-weight cattle intended for U.S. stocker or feeder operations, while at least three-fourths of cattle imports from Canada are destined for immediate slaughter. Cattle imports from Mexico have increased year-over-year since 2008, while imports from Canada have trended downward. Total cattle imports have also trended downward since 2007 due to a declining total North American cattle herd. The data for this chart come from ERS's Livestock and Meat International Trade Data.

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