by Claire Masker

infographic showing dollars exported vs value createdSales of pork variety meats and by-products offer huge potential when it comes to increasing total U.S. pork exports. Sales abroad of products that have little or no value domestically provide a significant return to the nation’s pork producers.

Pork variety meats include pork livers, hearts, kidneys, and stomachs, as well as bones, ears and tongues. Countries that purchase these items include Mexico, Peru, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and the Philippines.

“A significant portion of variety meats and by-products go into rendering or lower value products in the United States,” said Becca Nepple, vice president of international marketing for the Pork Checkoff. “Finding new and expanded markets for these products with our trading partners is essential in increasing overall U.S. pork exports.”

The United States leads the world in exporting pork muscle cuts. But while the pork industry produces billions of pounds of variety meats and by-products each year, just under a billion pounds are exported.

In 2016, pork variety meats accounted for 13.6 percent of the total value of U.S. pork exports ($5.94 billion) and 22 percent of exports by volume (5.1 billion pounds), according to the USDA.

Research Leads to New, Innovative Products

Finding new uses for pork variety meats and pork by-products through research is an ongoing goal for the Pork Checkoff. To help spark new marketing ideas, the Pork Checkoff hosted a pork variety meat workshop last summer at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

Meat scientists from Iowa State University, Colorado State University, North Carolina State University and WPF Technical Services joined pork producers and staff from the National Pork Board, the USMEF and the National Pork Producers Council to discuss research aimed at developing new uses for pork variety meat and pork by-products.

Some very creative ideas came out of the two-day workshop, including:

  • A technique that allows jowl meat to be processed into a low-cost product similar to bacon, and
  • A mixture of liver, kidney and heart that is ground and processed into a loaf that can be sliced.

“Ideas like these offer options for countries that need economically priced proteins,” Nepple said.

Attendees also discussed the role of microwave technology in producing shelf-stable pork products and new options available to enhance the yield, quality and safety of products using low-value raw materials.

“Research and workshops like this will remain a top priority as the U.S. works to continue to expand pork exports,” Nepple.