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Overview

This page provides information and data on the Meat sector, which is one component of the Food and Pharmaceutical industry cluster.

The Meat industry can be described as having six sub-sectors:

  • Meat Processing (Abattoirs)
  • Poultry Processing
  • Smallgoods Manufacturing
  • Feedlots
  • Wild Game Harvesting
  • Wholesaling and Retailing of meat products.

The Australian meat industry is recognised worldwide for its high quality and being a reliable provider of excellent value products. This critical industry generates more than $50 billion in revenue each year for the Australian economy.

Vocational education and training is required for occupations involved in:

  • Slaughtering
  • Meat boning and slicing
  • Butchers and smallgoods makers.

Nationally recognised qualifications for the Meat sector are delivered under the AMP - Australian Meat Processing Training Package.

The only sector-specific occupation that requires a professional accreditation licence is the role of meat inspector, and registration can be with a federal or state authority, depending on the nature of the enterprise. Veterinarians and Animal Welfare Officers also require formal qualifications. However, this industry also employs Electricians, Plumbers, and Forklift Operators, which are all licensed occupations.

For information on primary production, including seafood, visit the Agriculture and Aquaculture and Wild Catch industry cluster pages.

For information on sales and hospitality, please visit the Retail and Wholesale and Tourism, Travel and Hospitality industry clusters. For distribution, please visit the Transport cluster.

Information sourced from the Meat IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast and the Meat IRC’s 2020 Skills Forecast.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and Skills Forecasts

IRCs now submit comprehensive Skills Forecasts to the AISC every 3 years, with abridged annual updates submitted in the intervening 2 years

Meat IRC

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

The Meat and Meat Product Manufacturing industry sector employment level across Australia has fluctuated, however employment levels have increased overall, from around 45,400 in 2000 to approximately 60,900 in 2020. The employment level is projected to increase between 2020 and 2024.

Three occupations (Meat, Poultry and Seafood Process Workers; Packers; and Meat Boners, Slicers and Slaughterers) make up over 50% of the total Meat and Meat Product Manufacturing industry workforce. Employment levels in all three of these occupations as well for Butchers and Smallgoods Makers, are predicted to increase to 2024, with the biggest increase expected for Meat Boners and Slicers, and Slaughterers (6%).

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Meat Processing-related qualifications have increased slightly to around 8,630 in 2019 after a significant decline between 2017 and 2018. Program completions continued the upward trend from the previous year, with roughly 2,740 completions recorded in 2019. The proportion of subject-only enrolments has been relatively consistent since 2016, with the majority of students enrolled in subjects delivered as part of a nationally recognised program.

In 2019 enrolments were mainly split between certificate II (49%) and certificate III (44%) level qualifications across a variety of areas including Abattoir (40%), Meat Retailing and Smallgoods Manufacturing (31%) and Other Meat Processing (29%). The main intended occupation for enrolments in Abattoir-related qualifications was Meat Process Worker, while for those enrolled in Meat Retailing and Smallgoods Manufacturing it was Butcher or Smallgoods Maker.

Private training providers delivered well over half of the training overall (61%), with TAFE institutes responsible for approximately 31% of training. The majority of training was Commonwealth and state government funded (86%), regardless of training provider type.

The majority of students resided in the eastern states, with 31% in Queensland, followed by New South Wales (27%) and Victoria (26%). Similarly, most of the training was delivered in Queensland (32%), New South Wales (28%) and Victoria (26%).

As at December 2019, there were approximately 3,800 apprentice and trainee commencements. Commencements have gradually declined each year after peaking at roughly 6,680 in 2012. Completions peaked in 2015 at close to 3,700 followed by a period of fluctuation, and a slight decline between 2018 and 2019 (2,320 down to 2,180).

For apprentices and trainees in training at December 2019 the majority were undertaking qualifications with the intended occupation of either Butcher or Smallgoods Maker (largely studying in Meat Retailing and Smallgoods Manufacturing-related qualifications), or Meat Process Worker (Abattoir-related qualifications).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, please visit NCVER’s VET students by industry. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

To extract NCVER data and construct your own tables, please sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

According to job advertisements, the most in-demand VET-related occupations for the Meat industry were Meat, Poultry and Seafood Process Workers and Other Factory Workers.

This same job vacancy data indicates that the top generic skills in demand from employers in this industry are communication skills and detail orientated.

The top priority generic skills for the industry identified in the Meat IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast include:

  • Managerial / Leadership
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Learning agility/ Information literacy / Intellectual autonomy and self-management (adaptability)
  • Customer service / Marketing
  • Financial
  • Technology.

A range of issues relating to industry skills and workforce development were identified in the Meat IRC’s 2020 Skills Forecast, including:

  • Extreme weather conditions: Severe drought and unprecedented bushfires have both contributed to widespread stock losses, as has the significant flood events of 2019 in North Queensland. These weather events not only impact the industry in the short term through stock and infrastructure loss, but can have long term consequences on meat processors who may be forced to reduce shifts or close plants, as well as land regeneration which can take many years.
  • Smallgoods sector trainer shortages: A reported shortage of people who are trained for smallgoods production will be reviewed by the IRC in 2020, with the IRC seeking additional information to identify the cause of this issue, and potential responses. Currently, there is mixed feedback from the industry with some indicating that many trainers do not possess a strong smallgoods background, while anecdotal evidence from one RTO suggests a relation to the size of the smallgoods qualifications, as opposed to the trainers.
  • African Swine Fever: Global outbreaks of African Swine Fever have ongoing implications for the Australian meat industry, including the need to ensure there is Emergency Animal Disease (EAD) awareness and preparedness, and good biosecurity practices.
  • Retail ready processing: Different types of skills are increasingly being needed by workers, specifically for preparing cuts, portioning, and packaging products to go directly onto supermarket shelves, as opposed to preparing bulk cuts and packages meats that go to the wholesaler or retailer for further processing.

The Meat IRC’s 2020 Skills Forecast also poses questions around the types of training being used by employers. Anecdotally it’s believed that employers are using training other than VET qualifications, units and skill sets, however the challenge is to identify and quantify the extent of this. It’s also believed that much of this unaccredited training is based on the AMP Training Package.

In addition, the Queensland Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning has developed the Queensland Beef Processing Strategy 2019-22 in consultation with major beef processors and representative bodies in order to respond to key industry challenges. The strategy focuses on four key priority areas, including enhancing industry engagement and representation; ensuring efficient movement of livestock and freight through road and rail; building and retaining a skilled workforce; and investing in supply chain and processing efficiency.

In line with some of the previous points, the challenges and opportunities faced by the industry, as identified in the Meat IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast, related to an increased and changing regulatory environment, changing markets, a shift in consumer demand / expectations, increasing competition, biosecurity concerns, impacts of climate variability, attracting and ensuring an appropriately skilled workforce, and animal welfare and traceability. In addition, it was suggested that the key to the industry’s success will be the ability to optimise the systems, technologies and practices within immediate control.

A review of key food industry reports highlights an emerging theme of new technologies and methodologies in the areas of sustainability and traceability. For example, a report prepared by Griffith University for the Australian Meat Processor Corporation investigated the use of blockchain technology to establish product traceability for the Australian red meat industry, an industry which has been impacted by counterfeit products which falsely claim Australia as the country of origin.

However, according to the Roadmap Development for a Meat Processing Intelligent Automation Centre, the meat industry has been relatively slow in comparison to other industries with regards to adopting new smart technologies. Although progress has been made to automate a number of processes in meat processing plants, the main challenges to the adoption of new technologies relate to the inherent biological variations of meat products, the characteristics of the supply chain and the high costs associated with automation.

Links and resources

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2019, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal:

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit Meat and Meat Product Manufacturing industry, employment projections to May 2024
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2024.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020, Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ08, viewed 1 August 2020 https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.003May%202020?OpenDocument

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit Meat and Meat Product Manufacturing industry, 2000 to 2020, May Quarter.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by ANZSIC 3 digit Meat and Meat Product Manufacturing industry, and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant Training Package related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce (excluding inadequately described, not stated and not applicable).

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection and Total VET students and courses from the following training package:

  • AMP - Australian Meat Processing Training Package.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2015 to 2019 program enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 subject enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

AMP Australian Meat Processing Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2000 to 2019 commencements
  • 2000 to 2019 completions
  • 2019 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2019 collection, by qualification and state and territory.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the Meat IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast.

Updated: 24 Sep 2020
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