Category Archives: Milestones

NSW Meat Industry Milestones

General Quotes and Information

  • Neville Newton – 50 years working in abattoirs, managing Blayney, now Goulburn1.

“There are far too many processing abattoirs out there and not enough animals to slaughter”1

“Industry plight has been caused by record low numbers of livestock”1

“We’ve had a drought for a long period of time”1

“In fact, the only time I’ve ever seen it a bit like this was in the late 70’s and early 80’s with beef, there were large herd numbers and there was a very big cow and heifer kill and then all of a sudden they just ran out of numbers, At that time there were a lot of corrections in who owned bee processing plants in Australia”1

  • Central west NSW used to have 11 abattoirs, now it has 4. Cowra, Dubbo, Goulburn & Oberon. Currently 29 licensed red meat abattoirs in NSW, down 30% decade ago. (Dated 16.02.2010)1
  • Atleast 6 red meat abattoirs in Central NSW shut since 2003 (Dated 16.02.2010)1

Timeline Information


  • Aus-Meat registered abattoirs in NSW – Not necessarily all abattoirs as it wasn’t mandatory to register with Aus-meat.
    • 16 – Export acrredited abattoirs2
    • 8 Domestic abattoirs2
    • 16 Boning facilities.2


  • Federal and State governments agree on mandatory code for processing red meat in export and domestic abattoirs and meat processing plants.
  • Federal had been pushing for compulsory code of conduct for meat inspectors in all states.
    • Under existing arrangements a national code of conduct of inspection was in force but was applied voluntarily by the states
  • “Australia has the most rigorous hygiene standards in the world, but there was a pressing need to continually update the codes of conduct in the industry” Senator Collins.
  • Community and Public sector union alleged that cartons of meat with pesticide levels 12 times above allowable limit were sold on domestic markets. Also said it had details of meat subsitution rejected from export sold into domestic.
    • Union declined to substantiate allegations at special senate hearing in Canberra


  • USDA reviewd Australian export abattoirs and found 14 of them unacceptable or marginally acceptable. Australian quarantine services conducted its own review and found all but 1 up to USDA standards5
    • Unacceptable abattoirs in NSW named6
      • NSW – Southern Country Foods – Wagga Wagga6
      • Rockdale Beef – Yanco6
    • Marginal abattoirs in NSW named6
      • Wingham abattoir – Wingham6
      • RG Gilbertson – Grafton6
      • Cargill Australia – Wagga Wagga6
  • We have too many abattoirs to be economic, as a consequence corners get cut. We are the biggest exporter of beef to the world so it is vital we drive a massive rationalisation of the industry or we will be cut out” – John Carter, 10 years head of NSW Meat Industry Authority.6
  • AQIS did suspend 2 abattoirs after its own inspection found deficencies not picked up by USDA5
  • Australia’s beef export trade worth $1B5
  • Method of operation that is in question not the meat being produced is contaminated or off8
  • Europe blacklist in 6 meat exporters – citing animal welfare breaches and technical faults7
    • Europe $85M market7
    • Europe told AQIS – killing procedures in some inhumane, Stun guns were inadequate in 1 abattoir7
    • 6 of the 11 abattoirs inspected banned from exporting to Europe7
    • Australian Meat Council – animal welfare standards depended on which side of scientific  debate one listened to7
      • “what is a breach and isn’t is widely disputed both on rational and irrational grounds” Christopher Creal. Aust Meat Council.7
      • “Europe had enormous problems with trade in unsafe meat. There is a blackmarket trade in meat grown in some pretty nasty hormonal promotants, and vets have been murdered for trying to clean up chemical regulation”Christopher Creal. Aust Meat Council.7
  • “Far too many abattoirs operate with low-level expertise and management, They must be upgraded or they should be closed”. John Carter. Former head of NSW meat Industry Authority9


  • Waterfront Industrial dispute – 1,800 process workers stood down.4
    • boycott of NFF and supermarkets and against the unloading of Australian products4
    • Abattoirs were unable to obtain empty containers for shipping requirements4


  • Aus-Meat Accredited
    • 16 Export accredited abattoirs3
    • 0 Domestic abattoirs3
    • 10 Boning facilities3


  1. ‘Abattoir industry in disastrous state’ ABC Rural 16.02.10
  2. ‘Aus Meat Accreditation Listing November 1987 – private email, Ausmeat. 16.01.13
  3. ‘Aus-Meat accreditation Listing – current at 14.01.2013
  4. ‘1,800 Meat workers stood down’ Sydney Morning Herald (SMH). 20.04.1998.
  5. ‘Threat to beef export trade’ SMH
  6. ‘US names abattoirs producing bad beef’ SMH
  7. ‘Europe blacklists six abattoirs’ SMH 23.01.1996.
  8. ‘Meat Exporters have bone to pick with us’ SMH 19.01.1996.
  9. ‘US threat puts $1B beef trade at risk’ SMH 18.01.1996.

Milestones in the Australian Meat Industry


  • Outbreak of pleuropneumonia – decimated herds in NSW4


  • 1st Freezer works invented – Darling Harbour8


  • Tick introduced on imported stock from Dutch Bativia4


  • Tick Plague bought red water fever – killed many cattle, some pastoralists abandoned properties4


  • 3 Zebu bulls introduced to QLD4


  • 15 year contract with Australia – UK purchased all exportable beef surpluses8


  • Large numbers of imports of Zebu to QLD4
  • Refrigeration for long haul transports improved in efficiency and financially8
  • Sheep prices soared £1 head – during Korean war10


  • Britain won contracts in previous Australian export markets. USA developed ‘grinder beef’ allowed new markets for North Australia4
  • Global demand for beef, boom lead to record cattle numbers in Australia8


  • USA Lean beef market development8


  • Australian Sheep herd 155M10
  • Petrodollars Money – Middle East had significant discoveries of oil and lifted living standards in those countries, created a building boom, workers mainly from 3rd world muslim countries10             pg 28
  • 1st shipment to Middle East. 2500 Australian sheep £6, 14 shillings and 4 pence a head including fodder for voyage10Pg 28


  • UK – had outbreak of FMD8


  • BTEC began – stopped 1989. Cost $800M
  • Large cattle numbers and slaughter rates in 1970’s prompted significant expansion in processing capacity in QLD, with an increase in capacity of 32% between 1975 – 1982 (Rolfe 1988). The plants then faced work practices characterised by single shifts and a tight tally’s system. Most of the expansion met through construction of new plant, which was also needed to meet export standards in many of the overseas markets3
  • Sheep live exports significant – Middle east, Cattle SE Asia8
  • Economic downturn in the 70’s led to drops in global beef demand8
  • 4 out of 5 meatworks in North Australia had their export licences withdrawn –
  • “inability to fullfill obligations under the meat board diversification scheme in Australia”8
  • Australian sheep herd 180M10Pg 37


  • Australian sheep herd 142.3M10Pg 37


  • Beef Crash – caused by major loss of markets USA & Japan, severe drought started. Cattle prices plunged to lowest level in 30 years.4
  • Herd shrank by more than 60%5
  • Oil prices crisis triggered global collapse4


  • LE to SE Asia re-emerge on a small scale after years of inactivity5
  • LE mainly to Malaysia, Philippines and then in early 90’s to Indonesia8
  • National Beef herd 32.8M10Pg 42
  • National Sheep herd 127.5M10 Pg 42


  • AMIEU – picket line 4 weeks, prevented sheep being loaded onto ship, Feedlot Adelaide Virginia 90,000hd sheep. Were losing sheep due to rain and cold weather, Waterside workers unions also striked in support.Unions lead by Bob Hawke. Public rally supported by Farmers 10,000 against the union 4th April 1978. Operation Sheeplift – loaded at Wallaroo.10Pg 43
  • Meat Processing in trouble – didn’t have enough outlets for all the meat it was processing, yet LE was thriving at significantly higher prices, LE was shipping aged merinos, not suitable to slaughter in Aust, AMIEU still picketed10Pg 49


  • Cyclical downturn in slaughter numbers occurred in the early 1980’s, rationalisation was required. Industry commission inquiry in 1983 recommended market forces rather than government intervention be allowed to drive the changes.3
  • Plant closures of the late 1980’s was in response to rationalisation pressures. Most plants that were closed were the older, inefficient plants that reached the end of their operating life(Reynolds and Sangster 1998b).3


  • Australian Meat Holdings (AMH) formed – was pivotal in rationalising the meat processing sector in QLD– consortium of 4 meat processing companies, Including Elders (who bought other partners out in 1988) who then sold to USA processor (ConAgra)1993-1996.

1984 – 1986 

  • AMH closed 5 plants of the initial 11 owned by the consortium – utilisation rates had fallen to 32%


  • BTEC finalised4.


  • By the 1990’s, plant closures tended to be forced by financial losses rather than operating inefficiencies3
  • USA market health regulations forced many abattoirs across Australia to shut down8

(Not sure when actually occurred – ????????)


  • Live cattle exports to Asia and Middle East 147,000hd1


  • Live cattle exports to Asia and Middle east 290,000hd1


  • Beginning of Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBA)


  • disputes and lock out at Rockhampton AMH abattoir


  • EBA’s introduced – Previously tally system has set rates of pay and also rate of productivity. Any new investment in efficiency meant workers just reached minimum tally in a shorter time. Tally system removed, increased production levels3.
  • EBA allowed multiple shifts,reduced penalties and shift loads, longer working days and increased pay rates. 30-40% increase in effective capacity. Lead to 40% reduction in unit costs3.
  • AMH if gained a 4% efficiency achieved a net gain of $62M over 10 years, industry wide net gain would yield $404 net gain3


  • Innisfail Meatworks closed leaving Townsville as only Northern abattoir in QLD5.


“Last weeks QLD cattle kill of 43,700 hd was 40% below the same week last year, The extreme low rates of kill are also reflected in industry statistics showing that for the 3 months ended January 30, Australian beef exports to the US reached just 38,000t a far cry from the same period in 08/09 of 70,000t2


  • Live Export ban to Indonesia.


  • Carbon tax introduction – $23/t for over 25,000t of greenhouse emissions.Europe payint $9.80/t6
  • Australian Export Meat Inspection System (AEMIS) introduced7
  • “AEMIS  utilises the presence of full-time government  veterinarian assessing the incoming stock and oversighting the production and inspection process, and a full time government food safety meat assessor inspecting”7
  • “The system is subject to external audits from senior Australian government veterinarians and by foreign officials representing many of our major trading partners”7
  • One processor says will add $100,000 in costs over next 12 months7
  • May. JBS arrived in Australia 2007, “despite $500m investment on improvements and upgrades, the cost of production of beef relative to major international competitors has actually worsened” JBS CEO Andre Nofueira12


  • February. QLD cattlemarket indicator (QCMI) 1985 $70.80 buy the same amount of goods in todays $ would cost $180.70 – prices are 30% lower in real terms than what they were in 859
  • March. Near record weekly kill tally – 81601, close to all time record July 200111
  • Young cattle indicator slipped 12c/kg, some grids back by 20c/kg


  1. ‘The past is before us’, The Australian Society for the Study of Labour History. Undated

  1. ‘Abattoirs under stress’Beef Central 22.02.10
  2. Competition and Exit in Meat Processing:A QLD Case Study. Agribusiness review 1999

References with their articles (Rolfe 1988),(Reynolds and Sangster 1998b)

  1. ‘North’s Beef Powerhouse’ Nth QLD Register 22.11.12
  2. ‘100 years of Northern Beef Production’ Nth QLD Register 22.11.12
  3. ‘Processors beef with carbon tax’ Nth QLD Register 06.09.12
  4. ‘Exporters query E.coli blow-up’ QLD Country Life 31.05.12
  5. ‘Sailing ahead’ Annabelle Coppin 2009
  6. ‘Beef Prices at historic lows necessitates focus on cost of production’ Beef Central 18.02.13
  7. ‘The Australian Livestock Export trade’ Nigel Austin 2011
  8. ‘Record QLD kill reflects ‘avalanche’ or dry weather cattle’ Beef Central 19.03.13
  9. ‘JBS heads calls for industry-wide focus on competitiveness’ Beef Central 17.05.12
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