In the early 1990s, one-third of Mexican territory was officially designated as grazing land. These lands were located mainly in the north, where Herefords and other breeds were raised on huge cattle ranches for export to the United States, and in the southern, central, and southeastern states, where native beef cattle were raised. During the 1980s, higher domestic food demand encouraged more intensive raising of improved cattle breeds near urban areas for both dairy products and beef. In 1992 the Mexican government announced new measures to assist the meat industry, including deregulation of cattle growers and tighter controls on imported meat. The needs of the livestock industry also have encouraged more extensive cultivation of fodder crops on irrigated lands.

Mexico's livestock industry accounted for some 30 percent of the agriculture sector's annual growth, although animal husbandry contributed less than 1 percent to total GDP. The industry's weak performance in the late 1980s and early 1990s resulted from inadequate investment (which obstructed the adoption of intensive production techniques), high feed costs, low prices fixed by the government, poor weather conditions, epidemics of hoof-and-mouth disease, and fears of expropriation. Weak productivity has forced Mexico to become a net importer of beef.

Mexico's total cattle stock rose slightly from 30 million head in 1992 to 31 million head in 1993, and the total swine stock rose from 10 million head to 11 million head. The number of sheep held steady at 13 million head. Production of beef and veal was 1.7 million tons in 1993. Although lower domestic demand for red meat caused a 0.5 percent decline in total livestock output in 1991, beef exports held steady and earned US$358 million in 1991, compared with US$349 million in 1990. Output of lamb, mutton, and goat meat was 138,000 tons in 1993, and swine meat production was 870,000 tons.

Mexico's total flock of chickens rose from 282 million in 1992 to 285 million in 1993, while poultry meat output fell from 936,000 tons in 1992 to 923,000 tons in 1993. Mexico's chicken flock produced 20 billion eggs in 1993.

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