The Netherlands is the EU’s largest meat exporter

butchered veal in cold storage
© Hollandse Hoogte / Vidiphoto
In 2020, the Netherlands exported 8.8 billion euros worth of meat, making it the biggest exporter of meat in the EU. Sixty percent of total Dutch earnings from meat sales are generated through meat exports and 40 percent through domestic meat sales. This is one of the findings in the latest edition of the Internationalisation Monitor published by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

After the Netherlands, the largest meat exporters in the EU are Spain, Germany, Poland and Denmark. The Netherlands is the largest exporter of beef and veal, the second largest exporter of poultry meat (after Poland) and the fourth largest exporter of pork (after Spain, Germany and Denmark). The main destinations for Dutch meat exports are Germany (mainly veal and beef), the United Kingdom (mainly poultry meat) and China (predominantly pork).

Of Dutch meat exports totalling 8.8 billion euros, 85 percent are exports of domestically produced or processed meat and 15 percent concern re-exports or transit trade.

The Netherlands is also the biggest exporter in terms of weight: last year, 3.6 billion kg of meat was exported. The Netherlands has been a major meat exporter for decades. For example, it already topped the EU ranking in 2000, with meat exports totalling 2.4 billion kg (5 billion euros).

Largest meat exporters in the EU, 2020
 Beef and veal (bn euros)Pork (bn euros)Poultry meat (bn euros)Other (bn euros)
Source: CBS, Eurostat

Meat exports account for 60 percent of Dutch earnings from meat sales

The production of and trade in meat generates value added for the Dutch economy. In 2019, the Netherlands earned 8.7 billion euros from total meat sales, of which 5.2 billion euros through exports and 3.5 billion euros through domestic sales. At 8.7 billion euros, the entire Dutch meat chain accounts for 1.1 percent of Dutch GDP and 1.3 percent of total employment in the Netherlands (converted to 98 thousand full-time jobs).

Since 2015, the Netherlands has started to earn more from meat production and trade. The amount stood at 7 billion euros (1.0 percent of GDP) in 2015. The share of exports in total earnings from meat steadily increased from 57 percent in 2015 to 60 percent in 2019.

Value added of domestic sales and exports of meat
 Exports (bn euros)Domestic sales (bn euros)

Imports of live animals and animal feed raw materials are necessary for meat exports

Dutch meat exports require imports, such as live animals, meat that still needs to be processed or animal feed raw materials. Live poultry is the largest import category (240 million euros in 2019, mainly from Germany), followed by maize and wheat. As animal feed raw materials, maize (mostly from Ukraine) and wheat (mainly from France) contribute indirectly to Dutch meat exports. Other animal feed raw materials are crude palm oil (mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia) and soybeans (mainly from Brazil and the United States).

Top 10 imports destined for meat exports, 2019
 EU (million euros)Non-EU (million euros)
Live poultry2400
Wheat and meslin612
De-boned beef2735
Live calves up to 80 kg600
Carcasses of bovine animals540
Crude palm oil347
Wild boar meat400
Other pork320