Strengths and Limitations
Recommended Citation

This page describes the data sources, product lists and descriptions, conversion factors, and country groupings used in the livestock and meat trade tables.


This dataset contains monthly and annual (calendar year) data going back to 1989 for U.S. imports and exports of live cattle and hogs, beef and veal, lamb and mutton, pork, broilers, turkey, shell eggs, and egg products. The tables report physical quantities, not dollar values or unit prices. Breakdowns by partner countries are included. Historical trade data going back to 1970 are available in the Red Meat Yearbook and Poultry Yearbook. This data product is updated monthly to include the data for the month 2 months before the month of release.


The USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) livestock and meat trade tables are based on data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census (U.S. Census Bureau), Foreign Trade Division. The Information Section at the beginning of each monthly Census report describes the data as follows:

"Data for goods on a Census basis are compiled from the documents collected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and reflect the movement of goods between foreign countries and the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. Foreign Trade Zones. They include government and non-government shipments of goods and exclude shipments between the United States and its territories and possessions; transactions with U.S. military, diplomatic, and consular installations abroad; U.S. goods returned to the United States by its Armed Forces; personal and household effects of travelers; and in-transit shipments. The General Imports value reflects the total arrival of merchandise from foreign countries that immediately enters consumption channels, warehouses, or Foreign Trade Zones."

Full documentation and summary statistics are available from the U.S. Census Bureau.

U.S. Census Bureau data are considered the official Government trade statistics, although other Government agencies do border inspections and report quantities. For example, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) checks the health of imported live animals and reports the number of head checked. Similarly, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) monitors the safety of imported meats and tallies those quantities. These USDA, APHIS and FSIS quantities are reported weekly by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Although these quantities usually correspond closely to U.S. Census data, they should not be regarded as official trade statistics.

Product Lists and Descriptions

U.S. Census Bureau data are categorized according to a set of product codes, established by the World Customs Organization, called the International Harmonized Commodity Coding and Classification System, or simply Harmonized System (HS). HS is an international standard for world trade at 2-digit, 4-digit, and 6-digit levels. For example, 02 = meat and edible meat offal; 0201 = meat of bovine animals, fresh or chilled; and 020130 = bovine cuts, boneless, fresh or chilled.

Each country has the option of supplementing the international HS codes with greater detail to meet its own needs. The United States adopted a 10-digit code system and began using it for U.S. trade on January 1, 1989.

Exports codes, listed as Schedule B in the United States, are administered by the U.S. Census Bureau. Import codes, listed in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS), are administered by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC). (For more information on U.S. and international trade coding systems, see Background Information for U.S. Agricultural Trade Data)

The USDA, ERS livestock and meat trade tables report results for eight broad groupings of products. Each grouping represents multiple products at the HTS-10 level of detail. The groupings are cattle, hogs, beef and veal, broiler meat, lamb and mutton, pork, turkey meat, eggs, and egg products. For a full list of 10-digit HTS codes and descriptions, see Livestock and Meat Trade Codes and Conversion Factors.

Periodically, commodity codes become obsolete and are replaced, redefined, or recategorized. Once a code becomes obsolete, data are not reported for it in subsequent periods but are instead reported for newly defined code(s). For example, in July 2003 the code:

0103910000 Swine, live, nesoi (not elsewhere specified or indicated), weighing less than 50 kg (kilograms) each

was replaced with:

0103910010 Swine, live, nesoi, weighing less than 7 kg each
0103910020 Swine, live, nesoi, weighing 7 kg or more but less than 23 kg each
0103910030 Swine, live, nesoi, weighing 23 kg or more but less than 50 kg each

Data reported for periods preceding the introduction of new codes continue to use the original codes.

Because many users of livestock trade data conduct time-series analyses going back several years, the lists of product codes provided include obsolete codes that were in effect beginning in 1989. In Livestock and Meat Trade Codes and Conversion Factors, obsolete codes are designated with an asterisk (*) in the product description.

Conversion Factors

U.S. Census Bureau data for meat products are typically reported in metric tons of product weight. For beef, lamb and mutton, and pork, USDA, ERS converts the quantity data from a product-weight basis to a carcass-weight-equivalent (CWE) basis. USDA, ERS converts these data to CWE format because red meat production data in the USDA’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) are reported in CWE. USDA, ERS also converts the quantities from metric tons to pounds.

Livestock carcasses typically have the feet, head, tail, hide, and internal organs removed, although there are some variations across species. The carcass weight equivalent estimate intends to measure the weight of skeletal muscle and bones after the other parts listed above have been removed. Also, for boneless meat products, the conversion factor "adds back" the weight of the bones removed from that portion of the carcass. For processed-meat products, such as sausage (in Chapter 16 of Schedule B), the conversion factors assume some fixed fraction of the product is beef, pork, chicken, etc.

The Livestock and Meat Trade Codes and Conversion Factors file contains tables showing conversion factors used in USDA, ERS calculations for beef, lamb and mutton, and pork products. These tables also include obsolete codes and their associated conversion factors.

The factors for converting product-weight to carcass-weight equivalent are based on studies of the relative weights of carcass components, where composition is considered by type of cut and by the shares of muscle, bone, and fat in these parts. A USDA, ERS publication, Weights, Measures, and Conversion Factors for Agricultural Commodities and Their Products, provides the relevant details. Meat and poultry measures are listed in tables 7–13.

Strengths and Limitations

This dataset provides official U.S. Census import and export data for livestock and meat products converted to the units and aggregations used by the USDA for the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE). The formatted tables provide a quick reference for comparing the latest data to historical figures, and the comma separated values (CSV) files provide a full and detailed dataset that can be used by programmers for thorough data analysis.

These data are limited to livestock, meat, and poultry products. The conversion factors, especially for Chapter 16 products, are estimated shares of each animal product within the HS category, but these may not universally apply.


USDA Trade Data

USDA, Foreign Agriculture Service

  • Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS): Monthly U.S. agricultural trade from 1989 forward. Data are available for individual countries and for products by Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) 10-digit codes.
  • Production, Supply and Distribution (PS&D) database: Official USDA data on production, supply, and distribution of agricultural commodities for the United States and major importing and exporting countries. The database provides projections for the coming year for major crop, livestock, fishery, and forest products, and historical commodity data for more than 200 countries.

USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service

Weekly or monthly Livestock, Poultry, and Grain reports.

USDA, Economic Research Service

Other Trade Information

Agricultural Market Access Database (AMAD): Data and information on World Trade Organization (WTO) member countries regarding tariff schedules, tariff bindings, applied tariff rates, import quantities, notifications to the WTO on countries' commitments, and other data useful in analyzing market access issues in agriculture.

Related USDA, ERS Outlook Reports

  • Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook: Monthly analysis of current developments in the livestock and poultry industries, providing data on animal numbers, meat and egg production, prices, trade, and net returns.
  • Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade: Summarizes USDA's most recent 1-year projections for U.S. agricultural trade value and volume, as well as projections of selected countries' total trade with the United States.

Animal Product Yearbooks

  • USDA, ERS Red Meat Yearbook: Monthly, quarterly, and annual data on commercial livestock slaughter and meat production; livestock and meat prices and price indexes; inventories of cattle, hogs, and sheep; and meat supply and utilization. Last published in 2006.
  • USDA, ERS Poultry Yearbook: Monthly and annual data on production, supply, disappearance, prices, and costs for eggs, broilers, other chickens, and turkeys. Last published in 2006.

Related Topics

Recommended Citation

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. (2023). Livestock and meat international trade data. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.