More often than not, winning strategies have a secret weapon. For U.S. pork exports in 2017, that secret weapon was pork variety meats. The United States exported a record-tying 82 percent of all edible variety meat production last year, surpassing $1 billion in value for the first time.

“The Checkoff has made it a priority, working with its strategic partners, to aggressively promote pork variety meats around the globe,” said Craig Morris, vice president of international marketing for the Pork Checkoff. “This strategy is increasingly paying off and providing a strong return on Checkoff funds invested in this critical program area.”

Pork variety meats include pork livers, hearts, kidneys, stomachs, bones, ears and tongues. Together, China and Mexico accounted for 86 percent of U.S. pork variety meat sales in 2017. Other countries that import U.S. pork variety meats include Peru, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines.

In 2017, total edible pork variety meat exports added $9.67 in value to every hog marketed, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

“With record pork production, any and all additional value that can boost the bottom line for pork producers is a good thing,” Morris said. “And given that we aren’t major consumers of variety meats here at home, exports of these products are especially critical.”

Pork Checkoff Research Leads to New Variety Meat Uses

Finding both innovative uses for pork variety meats and new ways to save more variety meats for human consumption are ongoing goals for the Checkoff. Successes from Checkoff-funded research include developing a technique that allows jowl meat to be processed into a low-cost product similar to bacon and discovering how a mixture of liver, kidney and heart can be ground and processed into a loaf and sliced.

“Continuing to develop new ways to use pork variety meats will help increase overall pork exports in 2018 and beyond,” Morris said. “Clearly the National Pork Board’s 9 percent increase in its international marketing budget this year is doubling down on strategies that have been working so well for U.S. pork producers.”