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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
  • 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, and employs approximately 445,000 people. Of these, 195,800 are directly employed in the industry, while a further 249,000 people are employed in businesses servicing the red meat and livestock industry. The industry currently exports around 70% of its red meat product.  

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.

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

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

The Meat and Meat Product Manufacturing industry sector employment level across Australia has fluctuated since 2001, however employment levels have increased overall from around 47,400 in 2001 to approximately 60,000 in 2021. The employment level is projected to decline slightly to 58,000 by 2025.

Three occupations (Meat, Poultry and Seafood Process Workers; Packers; and Meat Boners, Slicers and Slaughterers) make up the majority 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 projected to remain steady to 2025 with the largest projected increase at close to 3% for Packers.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Meat Processing-related qualifications have declined to around 7,060 in 2020, after a significant decline between 2017 and 2018 and a slight rise in 2019. Program completions have also declined after an increase in the previous two years, with roughly 2,030 completions recorded in 2020. The proportion of subject-only enrolments has been relatively consistent since 2016, with an average of 95% of students enrolled in subjects delivered as part of a nationally recognised program each year.

In 2020 enrolments were mainly split between certificate III (48%) and certificate II (43%) level qualifications across a variety of areas including Abattoir (35%), Meat Retailing and Smallgoods Manufacturing (34%) and Other Meat Processing (30%). 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 almost two thirds of the training overall (63%), with TAFE institutes responsible for approximately 30% of training. The majority of training was Commonwealth and state government funded (85%), regardless of training provider type.

The majority of students resided in the eastern states, with 30% in Queensland, followed by Victoria and New South Wales (26% each). Similarly, most of the training was delivered in Queensland (30%), followed by New South Wales (26%) and Victoria (26%).

As at December 2020, there were approximately 3,410 apprentice and trainee commencements. This number has gradually declined each year after peaking at roughly 6,680 in 2012. Completions peaked in 2015 at 3,700 followed by a period of fluctuation, with a decline between 2018 and 2020 (2,320 down to 1,480).

For apprentices and trainees in training at December 2020 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 Data Builder.

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 Process Workers.

This same job vacancy data indicates that the top generic skills in demand from employers in this industry are work area maintenance, 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.

Additionally, the Meat IRC’s 2021 Skills Forecast also identified the following industry developments:

  • The impacts of COVID-19: Meat processing is rated as one of the most exposed industries to the impacts of the pandemic due to its very high labour intensity, operational difficulties associated with social distancing, highly exposed supply chain and few options for employees to work from home. The pandemic exposed some weaknesses that needed to be addressed, but overall showed that biosecurity measures in the Australian meat industry were sufficient in most workplaces. Despite the challenges of operating during COVID-19, domestic meat sales rose by 30% since the first lockdowns came into force. WA's biggest meat processor saw sales increase by up to 50% over normal levels. The continuing high demand for meat is indicative of the importance of the meat processing industry and the necessity for sustainable workplaces and skilled workers.

  • The global meat market:  The pandemic has caused significant uncertainty in the global beef trade, both in major importing and exporting countries. One of Australia's most important beef markets started testing imported food products for traces of COVID-19 in June 2020. In July, Australian beef exporters were reporting long delays at some ports as a result of the new testing regime.

  • Modernising the meat export regulatory system: A recently announced four-year government ‘Busting Congestion for Agricultural Exporters’ package is intended to support the development of a more competitive meat industry by reinforcing Australia’s reputation as a producer of high-quality and safe meat, underpinned by a robust regulatory system. It also has objectives to bolster the meat processing sector’s exports with a package of modernisation proposals. The measures put in place are reputed to be the most comprehensive reforms undertaken since the 2011 Australian Export Meat Inspection System was implemented.

  •  The National Skills Commission (NSC) and attracting new industry workers:  Industry focus is on managing skills surpluses and identifying training options for unemployed workers who have been affected by COVID-19. The meat processing industry may be able to capitalise on the availability of people who have been displaced from their usual work and are seeking new opportunities. As well as highlighting reskilling and upskilling options for improving the prospects of people already performing an industry role, the NSC are promoting ‘skills transferability’ to facilitate clearer pathways between roles in diverse industries that require similar capabilities.

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.

According to State of the Industry Report 2021: The Australian Red Meat and Livestock Industry, in early 2020 widespread rains occurred across southern and eastern Australia, breaking Australia’s worst drought on record. The improved seasonal conditions underpinned high livestock prices and signalled the start of a national herd and flock rebuild. In March 2020 lamb, sheep and cattle prices hit new records as producers sought to restock their properties after years of drought induced destocking. This rise in demand occurred at a time when producers were holding onto more breeding stock to rebuild their inventories, which limited supply and forced prices higher, reducing numbers being processed. This translated into lower beef, mutton and lamb production volumes in 2020.

The report also reveals both the livestock production and meat processing sectors offer most employment opportunities to those with practical and technical skills, rather than higher levels of formal education. The highest level of education achieved by more than 50 per cent of red meat and livestock employees is secondary education, with Indigenous Australians also comprising a higher proportion of the meat processing workforce than for Australian industries in general.

The Australian Red Meat Industry's Carbon Neutral by 2030 Roadmap outlines the Carbon Neutral by 2030 (CN30) initiative launched to capitalise on growing government and community interest in solutions to greenhouse gas‑induced climate change. The four key areas of work are Emissions avoidance, Carbon storage, Integrated management systems, and Leadership building. The technologies in each work area have been selected based on their potential impact and are based on current knowledge and understanding of science, policy and market conditions. The work areas will require annual review as knowledge and priorities evolve, and progress is made towards the CN30 target.

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

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

IRC and skills forecasts

Meat Industry Reference Committee

 

Relevant research

Blockchain for the Meat Industry: Where and How? – Griffith University for the Australian Meat Processor Corporation

Queensland Beef Processing Strategy 2019-22 – Queensland Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning

Roadmap Development for a Meat Processing Intelligent Automation Centre – Ali Bab-Hadiashar and Alireza Tayeb Nama for the Australian Meat Processer Corporation

State of the Industry Report 2021: The Australian Red Meat and Livestock Industry - Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA)

The Australian Red Meat Industry's Carbon Neutral by 2030 Roadmap - Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA)

 

Industry associations, advisory bodies and employee associations

AgriFutures Australia

AUS-MEAT

Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU)

Australian Chicken Meat Federation

Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA)

Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC)

Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC)

Australian Pork Limited

Australian Renderers Association (ARA)

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

Goat Industry Council of Australia (GICA)

Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia (KIAA)

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA)

Meat Branch of NSW Food Authority

National Meat Industry Training Advisory Council (MINTRAC)

Red Meat Advisory Council (RMAC)

Western Australian Meat Industry Authority (WAMIA)

 

Regulatory bodies

New South Wales Biosecurity and Food Safety

Northern Territory Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade

PrimeSafe (Victoria)

Safe Food Queensland

South Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regions - Meat

South Australian Meat Hygiene Unit

Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment

Western Australian Department of Health

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, 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 2025.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ08 - Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021  

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit Meat and Meat Product Manufacturing industry, 2001 to 2021, 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 or qualifications:

AMP - Australian Meat Processing Training Package

  • Abattoir
    • AMP20316 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Abattoirs)
    • MTM20100 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Abattoirs)
    • MTM20107 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Abattoirs)
    • MTM20111 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Abattoirs)
    • MTM20198 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Abattoirs).
  • Meat Retailing and Smallgoods Manufacturing
    • AMP20216 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Smallgoods)
    • AMP20415 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Meat Retailing)
    • AMP30815 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Retail Butcher)
    • AMP30916 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Smallgoods - General)
    • AMP31016 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Smallgoods - Manufacture)
    • AMP50115 - Diploma of Meat Processing (Meat Retailing)
    • MTM10100 - Certificate I in Meat Processing (Smallgoods)
    • MTM10107 - Certificate I in Meat Processing (Smallgoods)
    • MTM10111 - Certificate I in Meat Processing (Smallgoods)
    • MTM10198 - Certificate I in Meat Processing (Smallgoods)
    • MTM10200 - Certificate I in Meat Processing (Meat Retailing)
    • MTM10207 - Certificate I in Meat Processing (Meat Retailing)
    • MTM10211 - Certificate I in Meat Processing (Meat Retailing)
    • MTM20200 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Smallgoods)
    • MTM20207 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Smallgoods)
    • MTM20211 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Smallgoods)
    • MTM20298 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Smallgoods)
    • MTM20300 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Meat Retailing)
    • MTM20307 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Meat Retailing)
    • MTM20311 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Meat Retailing)
    • MTM30698 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Smallgoods Laboratory)
    • MTM30700 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Smallgoods)
    • MTM30798 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Smallgoods Manufacturing)
    • MTM30800 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Meat Retailing)
    • MTM30807 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Meat Retailing)
    • MTM30811 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Retail Butcher)
    • MTM30813 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Retail Butcher)
    • MTM30907 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Smallgoods - General)
    • MTM30911 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Smallgoods - General)
    • MTM31007 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Smallgoods - Manufacture)
    • MTM31011 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Smallgoods - Manufacture)
    • MTM50200 - Diploma of Meat Processing (Meat Retailing)
    • MTM50207 - Diploma of Meat Processing (Meat Retailing)
    • MTM50211 - Diploma of Meat Processing (Meat Retailing).
  • Other Meat Processing
    • AMP20116 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Food Services)
    • AMP20117 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Food Services)
    • AMP30116 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Boning Room)
    • AMP30216 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Food Services)
    • AMP30316 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Meat Safety)
    • AMP30416 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Rendering)
    • AMP30516 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Slaughtering)
    • AMP30616 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (General)
    • AMP30716 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Quality Assurance)
    • AMP31116 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Livestock Handling)
    • AMP31216 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Packing Operations)
    • AMP40215 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (General)
    • AMP40315 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Leadership)
    • AMP40415 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Quality Assurance)
    • AMP40516 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Meat Safety)
    • AMP50215 - Diploma of Meat Processing
    • AMP50221 - Diploma of Meat Processing
    • AMP60115 - Advanced Diploma of Meat Processing
    • AMP60121 - Advanced Diploma of Meat Processing
    • AMP80115 - Graduate Certificate in Agribusiness
    • AMP80215 - Graduate Diploma of Agribusiness
    • MTM20400 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Food Services)
    • MTM20407 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Food Services)
    • MTM20411 - Certificate II in Meat Processing (Food Services)
    • MTM30100 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Boning)
    • MTM30107 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Boning Room)
    • MTM30111 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Boning Room)
    • MTM30198 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Boning)
    • MTM30200 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Food Services)
    • MTM30207 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Food Services)
    • MTM30211 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Food Services)
    • MTM30298 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Laboratory)
    • MTM30300 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Meat Safety)
    • MTM30307 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Meat Safety)
    • MTM30311 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Meat Safety)
    • MTM30398 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Meat Safety)
    • MTM30400 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Rendering)
    • MTM30407 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Rendering)
    • MTM30411 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Rendering)
    • MTM30498 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Rendering)
    • MTM30500 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Slaughtering)
    • MTM30507 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Slaughtering)
    • MTM30511 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Slaughtering)
    • MTM30598 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (Slaughtering)
    • MTM30600 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (General)
    • MTM30607 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (General)
    • MTM30611 - Certificate III in Meat Processing (General)
    • MTM40100 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Leadership)
    • MTM40107 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Leadership)
    • MTM40111 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Leadership)
    • MTM40198 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Leadership)
    • MTM40200 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Meat Safety)
    • MTM40207 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Meat Safety)
    • MTM40211 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Meat Safety)
    • MTM40298 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Meat Safety)
    • MTM40300 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Quality Assurance)
    • MTM40307 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Quality Assurance)
    • MTM40311 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Quality Assurance)
    • MTM40398 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Quality Assurance)
    • MTM40400 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (General)
    • MTM40407 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (General)
    • MTM40411 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (General)
    • MTM40498 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Smallgoods Leadership)
    • MTM40598 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Smallgoods Manufacturing)
    • MTM40698 - Certificate IV in Meat Processing (Smallgoods Quality Assurance)
    • MTM50100 - Diploma of Meat Processing
    • MTM50107 - Diploma of Meat Processing
    • MTM50111 - Diploma of Meat Processing
    • MTM60100 - Advanced Diploma of Meat Processing
    • MTM60107 - Advanced Diploma of Meat Processing
    • MTM60111 - Advanced Diploma of Meat Processing
    • MTM70111 - Graduate Certificate in Agribusiness
    • MTM80111 - Graduate Diploma of Agribusiness.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

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

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 subject enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 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:

  • 2011 to 2020 commencements
  • 2011 to 2020 completions
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2020 collection, by qualification and state and territory.
Updated: 16 Dec 2021
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