All of New Zealand’s beef was sold on the domestic market until the 1950s. The first exports of boxed beef were made to the US in 1958, and subsequently to Canada.
In 2006 beef was exported to over 80 countries. The largest market was North America, which took 48% of New Zealand’s beef, followed by North Asia (Japan, Korea and Taiwan), with 23%. The domestic market took 15% of the country’s production.
New Zealand was also a major exporter of grain-fed and organic beef products, and of halal beef to Malaysia and Indonesia.
In 2006 New Zealand produced 1% of the world’s beef and veal, 19% of which was consumed domestically. New Zealand contributed 6% of the global beef trade, and was the world’s fourth largest beef exporter, behind Brazil, Australia and Argentina. In 2006 New Zealand exported over 370,000 tonnes of beef, with a value of $2.3 billion dollars.
Most of the beef that New Zealand exports to the US is eaten as ground beef – much of which is used to make hamburgers. In 2005 Americans consumed, on average, around 31.75 kilograms of beef each. Ground beef made up 42% of that – a lot of hamburgers.
Export tonnages and values
The US limits competition with its domestic beef producers by setting quotas for beef imports. In the early 2000s New Zealand’s quota was 213,402 tonnes per annum. Over 70% of beef exported to the United States was lean beef for hamburgers. The remainder supplied the hotel and restaurant trade and the retail sector, and other sectors for further processing.
Japan was New Zealand’s third largest international market in terms of volume – but the high value of the meat cuts made it second largest in value, at $277 million.
South Korea was the second largest beef export market in terms of volume and third largest by value. In 2006 New Zealand exported over 46,000 tonnes, worth over $233 million.
Taiwan was the fourth largest beef export market by value. In 2006, over 24,000 tonnes of New Zealand beef went to Taiwan, earning $147 million.
Apart from exporting about 200 tonnes of high quality beef to the European Union, New Zealand beef producers have little access to the European market.