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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 Meat industry as a whole includes 1,215 processing businesses and about 6,000 wholesalers and retailers. The sector directly employs approximately 102,000 people who are involved directly or indirectly with the supply chain. Total sales turnover of the processing sectors was $25.5 billion in

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 2018 Skills Forecast.

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

IRC and Skills Forecasts

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

The Meat and Meat Product Manufacturing industry sector employment level across Australia has fluctuated over the last 15 years. The employment level is projected to decrease until 2023.

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 are projected to increase slightly until 2023.

Training trends

Training snapshot

From 2014 to 2016 there was a steady decrease in the number of program enrolments and completions in the Meat Processing Training Package. In 2017, completions continued to fall, however enrolments increased by 5.5% to nearly 12,400. The number of subject-only enrolments also increased in 2017, continuing a four year upwards trend.

The main intended occupation for people enrolled in Meat Retailing and Smallgoods Manufacturing related qualifications was Butchers and Smallgoods Makers. For those enrolled in Abattoir-related qualifications the intended occupation was Meat Process Workers.

Private training providers and TAFE institutes account for the majority of program enrolments at 50% and just over 40% respectively. Most training is Commonwealth and state funded regardless of training provider type. Over 80% of training took place in Victoria, Queensland or New South Wales.

During the period 2015 to 2016 both apprentice and trainee commencements and completions were in decline. In both instances, between 2016 and 2017 this decline has slowed.

For apprentices and trainees in training at December 2017 the majority were undertaking qualifications aimed at the intended qualification 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.

For more data specific to your location please 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

The Meat Processing industry IRC’s 2018 Skills Forecast highlights a need to prepare for changing skill requirements at all levels of the Meat Processing industry as a result of the continuing growth of technology solutions. It is also anticipated that international emphasis on food safety and traceability will place a greater demand on individual businesses to develop skills to identify and manage the associated risks across the workforce.

Priority skills identified by the Meat IRC for the Meat Processing industry sector workforce include:

  • management skills
  • the ability to undertake workplace incident investigations
  • skills to support the safe operation and management of biogas facilities
  • animal health data collection, evaluation and monitoring skills
  • the ability to prepare market reports for the purchase of beef and sheep using clear, standardised language
  • skills to recognise and assess physical characteristics of livestock which may impact on meat quality.

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, the 2017 CSIRO Futures Report for Food and Agribusiness suggests increasing requirements from overseas customers for authenticity and transparency is driving the demand for more traceability and product origin information. Therefore, Australian businesses will need to invest in both virtual and physical technologies that provide greater transparency around product origin, production inputs, supply chains, processing materials, transport and distribution.

The Food and Agribusiness Sector Competitiveness Plan outlines a ten-year vision and strategy for the Food and Agribusiness industry. Among the priorities listed relating to future skilling of the Meat Processing industry workforce are:

  • food sustainability through the adoption of innovative practices and technologies to improve productivity and environmental outcomes
  • development of technologies that can provide food safety assurance and negate the impact of food fraud
  • development of technology, knowledge and strategies to assist operators in the value chain to improve processes, productivity and outputs
  • knowledge and a better understanding of global value chains, non-tariff barriers, and trade routes to enable competition in the global market.

A research report examining workforce training from the perspective of employers investigated enablers and barriers to training in the Red Meat industry. The report found that the availability of government subsidies was an enabler for supporting formal training and sometimes, skills sets. Without the subsidy, some of the firms were inclined to provide just the necessary skills sets for the job, complemented by non-formal and informal training. Formal training would then be restricted to selected employees. Barriers to training were identified as disruption to the company’s production schedule through the absence of employees undergoing training, along with unsatisfactory prior experience with training providers.

Links and resources

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2018, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal:

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit Meat and Meat Product Manufacturing industry, employment projections to May 2023
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2023.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018, Employed persons by industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ06, viewed 1 November 2018

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit Meat and Meat Product Manufacturing industry, 2000 to 2018, 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:

  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 program enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 subject enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 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 2017 commencements
  • 2000 to 2017 completions
  • 2017 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2017 collection, by qualification and state and territory.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the Meat IRC's 2018 Skills Forecast and Proposed Schedule of Work.

Updated: 12 Sep 2019
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