The overall value of beef imports accelerated by 40.3% for all importing countries since 2017 when beef purchases were valued at $41.8 billion.
Year over year, globally imported beef inflated in overall cost by 17% compared to $50.1 billion for 2020.
The 5 biggest importers of fresh, chilled and frozen beef (inclusive) are mainland China, United States of America, Japan, South Korea, and Italy. Collectively, that powerful cohort of major beef buyers account for half (50.5%) of globally imported beef.
By meat type, global imports of frozen beef (53% overall) in 2021 slowed in comparison to–but still outpaced–fresh or chilled beef (47%).
From a continental perspective, buyers in Asian countries consumed the highest dollar worth of imported beef during 2021 with purchases valued at $29.2 billion or 49.8% of the global total. In second place were European importers at 26.9% while 16% of worldwide beef imports were delivered to customers in North America.
Smaller percentages were imported into Latin America (4.8%) excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean, Africa (2.1%), then Oceania (0.3%) led by Australia and New Zealand.
For research purposes, the 4-digit Harmonized Tariff System code prefixes are 0201 for fresh or chilled beef and 0202 for frozen beef.
Top Beef Importing Countries
Below are the 15 countries that imported the highest dollar value worth of beef during 2021, inclusive of fresh, chilled and frozen beef.
- China: US$12.5 billion (21.3% of total beef imports)
- United States: $7.6 billion (13%)
- Japan: $3.7 billion (6.3%)
- South Korea: $3.6 billion (6.1%)
- Italy: $2.23 billion (3.8%)
- Germany: $2.19 billion (3.7%)
- Netherlands: $1.93 billion (3.3%)
- Chile: $1.67 billion (2.8%)
- Hong Kong: $1.56 billion (2.7%)
- United Kingdom: $1.53 billion (2.6%)
- France: $1.52 billion (2.6%)
- Taiwan: $1.17 billion (2%)
- Egypt: $936.9 million (1.6%)
- Canada: $910.3 million (1.6%)
- Mexico: $875.6 million (1.5%)
Among the above countries, the fastest-growing importers of beef since 2017 were: China (up 307.4%), Chile (up 68.8%), South Korea (up 57.3%), United States of America (up 51.6%), then Taiwan (up 37%).
There was a trio of top importers that posted declines in their overall purchases of imported beef. These were Hong Kong (down -21.6%), Egypt (down -10.2%) and Germany (down -2.8%).
By value, the listed 15 countries shipped about three-quarters (74.9%) of all beef imported in 2021.
Top Fresh or Chilled Beef Importers
Below are the 15 countries that imported the highest dollar value worth of fresh or chilled beef during 2021. Purchases for all fresh or chilled beef importers totaled $27.6 billion, increasing in total cost by 25.3% from $22 billion in 2017 and advancing by 21% from $22.8 billion during 2020.
- United States: US$5 billion (18% of imported fresh or chilled beef)
- Japan: $2.2 billion (8%)
- Germany: $1.93 billion (7%)
- Italy: $1.92 billion (6.9%)
- Netherlands: $1.6 billion (5.9%)
- Chile: $1.5 billion (5.3%)
- South Korea: $1.4 billion (5.2%)
- France: $1.19 billion (4.3%)
- United Kingdom: $1.17 billion (4.3%)
- Mexico: $803.1 million (2.9%)
- Canada: $662.8 million (2.4%)
- China: $598 million (2.2%)
- Spain: $576.6 million (2.1%)
- Portugal: $554.4 million (2%)
- Taiwan: $539.3 million (2%)
Among the above countries, the fastest-growing fresh or chilled beef importers since 2017 were: China (up 713.5%), South Korea (up 98%), United States of America (up 77.5%) and Taiwan (up 70%).
A pair of top buyer countries posted declines in their purchases of imported fresh or chilled beef namely Spain (down -8.6%) and Germany (down -0.3%).
By value, the listed 15 countries shipped nearly four-fifths (78.5%) of all fresh or chilled beef imported in 2021.
Top Frozen Beef Importers
Below are the 15 countries that imported the highest dollar value worth of frozen beef during 2021. Purchases for all frozen beef importers totaled $31.1 billion, increasing in total cost by 56.9% from $19.8 billion in 2017 and gaining 13.6% compared to $27.4 billion for 2020.
- China: US$11.9 billion (38.3% of imported frozen beef)
- United States: $2.6 billion (8.5%)
- South Korea: $2.1 billion (6.9%)
- Japan: $1.5 billion (4.9%)
- Hong Kong: $1.4 billion (4.4%)
- Egypt: $918.8 million (3%)
- Indonesia: $744.1 million (2.4%)
- Russia: $678.4 million (2.2%)
- Vietnam: $634.7 million (2%)
- Taiwan: $634.6 million (2%)
- Israel: $580 million (1.9%)
- Malaysia: $525.8 million (1.7%)
- Philippines: $520 million (1.7%)
- Saudi Arabia: $401.2 million (1.3%)
- United Kingdom: $361.2 million (1.2%)
Among the above countries, the fastest-growing frozen beef importers since 2017 were: mainland China (up 297%), Vietnam (up 272.8%), Indonesia (up 73.3%) and the United Kingdom (up 46.9%).
Three leading countries posted declines in their purchases of imported frozen beef namely Hong Kong (down -25.8%), Russia (down -23.9%) and Egypt (down -11.5%).
By value, the listed 15 countries shipped over four-fifths (82.2%) of all frozen beef imported in 2021.
Beef Import/Export Companies
According to global trading platform Alibaba, the following companies participate in the international trade of beef or beef-related products. Shown within parenthesis is the home-country location for each business.
- AA Seafoods (Pakistan)
- Afro Asia for Import and Export (Sudan)
- Al-Zoya Overseas Private Limited (India)
- Carmelita Export-Import Limited (Ireland)
- Manka Import and Export Pty Ltd (South Africa)
- MBI Import and Export Pty Ltd (Belgium)
- NCC Import Export Company Limited (Vietnam)
- PFTAGG Export Company Pty Ltd (Australia)
- RAB Import Export (United States)
- Shanghai Hansen Global Supply (China)
See also Top Beef Exporting Countries, Chicken Exports by Country, Pork Exports by Country, Top Goat Meat Exports by Country and Most Valuable Red Meat Import Markets by Country
Alibaba, Supplier showroom for beef. Accessed on August 8, 2022
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Field Listing: Imports – Commodities. Accessed on August 8, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on August 8, 2022
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on August 8, 2022