AUSTRALIA'S solid beef market is largely due to the US appetite for 40 billion hamburgers.
That's how many hamburgers are eaten each year in the US, and this strong demand has provided a glimmer of optimism in an otherwise subdued beef market.
Australia doesn't supply all the beef for hamburgers but a significant share in this burgeoning market is underpinning prices for many categories of stock.
Yesterday Rabobank released a report on the nation's three biggest boxed beef markets - Japan, Korea and the US. It showed Australia's exports to the US market were up 40 per cent for the year to date, lead by a 57 per cent jump in manufacturing beef (90CL).
Rabobank senior animal proteins analyst Sarah Sivyer said while the rise came off a low base, Australian beef exports were still up 13 per cent on the three-year average.
"The insatiable (US) demand for manufacturing beef helped us this year," she said.
But the report, titled Australia's major boxed beef markets - the steaks are changing, showed the US was both friend and foe.
Increased competition from US beef into Australia's major market, Japan, meant exports were down.
The US push, combined with declining Japanese beef consumption, has pushed Australian beef exports down 7.5 per cent this year.
Ms Sivyer said Australia still held 62 per cent of Japan's beef market but the share was sliding.
"The US is pushing hard to regain market share," she said.
"The currency is certainly an advantage for the US, especially given the Japanese beef market is becoming much more price conscious."
The Korean market showed the biggest fall this year, down 20 per cent for the year to date.
But Ms Sivyer said all exporters were finding it tough in Korea.
"(Korean) herd size has increased 72 per cent in the past decade so domestic production has slowed the need for imports," she said.
"The government is incentivising slaughter and we are likely to see some recovery in 2013."
Ms Sivyer said Australian producers needed to watch the Free Trade Agreement negotiations, as the FTA signed between the US and Korea came into play.
"It's hard to know whether there was any disadvantage this year with the US tariff reduction down just 2.7 per cent this year," she said.
"But with it increasing to 5.3 per cent next year and 8 per cent the following year, it will disadvantage Australian beef."