US pork exports to Mexico hit new heights in 2022. Shipments to Mexico rose through November, according to data released by the USDA and compiled by the US Meat Export Federation 9% year-on-year, almost reaching the full-year record of 2021. The export value has already set an annual record at US$1.84 billion, up 20% year-on-year. Exports exceeded US$200 million in both October and November.
While hams account for much of the record-breaking volume of U.S. pork exported to Mexico, support from the National Pork Board and USDA has helped create opportunities for other cuts like cheeks and loins. According to Gerardo Rodriguez, marketing director for USMEF in Mexico, one successful project developed a chicharrón – a very popular food in Mexico – made from pork cheeks.
“This company is a new niche, a new channel, which is the meat boutique concept, a kind of high-end importer that sells chicharrón made from various pork sources,” says Rodriguez. “The first is the pork rind, which is essentially the skin. Then what we call press chicharron, lots of ingredients. And the third is the type of chicharron traditionally used with pork belly. The problem with this company that they faced was that pork belly was getting too expensive, too expensive to use as a chicharron product, so we worked with them.
USMEF conducted a research and development project to find alternative cuts.
“It’s the pork cheek because it has the same texture as the pork belly,” says Rodriguez. “In the first half of 2022 from January to July, the amount of pork cheeks sold as chicharron as a substitute for pork belly was £2,200 per hour. That’s the amount they sold.”
A successful series of seminars promoting pork loins in the US has also been expanded to other cities in Mexico.
“We have an amazing program to promote US pork loin. We started on the west coast in Tijuana and Ensenada with an importer who committed to taking their customers to an event where we do wine pairing and do a lot of different activities, but they take the customers’ sales contracts at that moment, so we’re selling of pork loin are seeing results right away,” says Rodriguez. “That was in Tijuana and Ensenada, where we did a loin program in Cancun and in Mexico City last year, and next year we’ll do it in Monterrey and new dishes for the northern develop part of the country.”