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Demand Rebounds for U.S. Lamb Variety Meats in Mexico

Published: Aug 26, 2020

A record month for U.S. lamb variety meat exports to Mexico in June is a positive sign for the U.S. lamb industry and for foodservice in Mexico. U.S. exports of lamb and variety meats to Mexico set annual records in both 2018 and 2019 on strong growth in variety meat exports. In 2019, U.S. lamb and variety meat exports to Mexico totaled 13,682 mt (over 90% of which was variety meats), valued at $13.9 million.

Exports slowed along with demand in 2020, as the impact of COVID-19 included a weakened peso, the temporary closure of food stalls, a shrunken workforce and the total shutdown of tourism. A positive sign in June, however, was the rebound in lamb variety meat exports to a record high of 1,645 mt, valued at $1.3 million, signaling the resurgence in demand for barbacoa tacos as foodservice capacity increased.

Lamb necks and heads are the main variety meat items exported to Mexico and are predominantly used by processors and distributors to make barbacoa tacos for food stalls, while muscle-cut items like shoulders and legs are used by the foodservice sector. The retaliatory tariffs on U.S. pork muscle cuts that were implemented in June 2018 were one of the main factors driving the surge in demand for lamb variety meats, but U.S. lamb exports maintained a record pace after the retaliatory tariffs on pork were removed in May 2019.

USMEF-Mexico continues to work with importers to sustain lamb variety meat exports while also facilitating activities to drive growth for U.S. lamb at foodservice and retail. USMEF continues promoting barbacoa, and this summer, conducted an activity with the famed Lady Tacos de Canasta who was recently featured on Netflix and has won a James Beard Award.

The basket tacos prepared by class participants were donated to area hospitals

USMEF collaborated with the Glifaa Association for Diversity, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico and the U.S. Department of Agriculture on this educational promotion. Lady Tacos de Canasta conducted a live virtual cooking class for members of the diplomatic corps on how to prepare tacos de canasta or “basket tacos” using U.S. protein including U.S. lamb barbacoa. The tacos prepared by the class participants were donated to area hospitals as a part of USMEF’s ongoing goodwill efforts.