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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.

In 2018, meat industry processing-related businesses contributed $9.4 billion to Australian gross domestic product, with a revenue (sales turnover) of $53.8 billion. Exports also form a significant part of this industry, with red meat and live exports generating $12.17 billion in 2017. In addition, approximately 438,000 workers are involved either directly or indirectly in the supply chain or through businesses that service the meat industry.

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.

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, however employment levels have increased overall, from around 45,400 in 2000 to approximately 62,800 in 2019. The employment level is projected to increase between 2019 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 declined significantly between 2017 and 2018, from approximately 12,360 to around 8,480. Program completions increased slightly to roughly 2,510 in 2018 after experiencing three consecutive years of decline. The number of subject-only enrolments increased in 2018, continuing a four year upwards trend.

In 2018 enrolments were mainly split between certificate II (45%) and certificate III (48%) level qualifications across a variety of areas including Abattoir (35%), Meat Retailing and Smallgoods Manufacturing (35%) and Other Meat Processing (30%). The main intended occupation for enrolments in Meat Retailing and Smallgoods Manufacturing-related qualifications was Butcher or Smallgoods Maker. For those enrolled in Abattoir-related qualifications the intended occupation was Meat Process Worker.

Private training providers and TAFE institutes delivered the majority of training at 56% and 35% respectively. Most training was Commonwealth and state government funded (92%) regardless of training provider type.

One third of students resided in Queensland (33%), followed by Victoria (26%) and New South Wales (25%).

The majority of training was delivered in Queensland (33%), Victoria (26%) and New South Wales (26%).

As at December 2018, there were approximately 4,130 apprentice and trainee commencements. Commencements have been gradually declining each year after peaking at roughly 6,680 in 2012. In contrast, completions peaked in 2015 at close to 3,700, then declined in 2016 and 2017, before increasing to around 2,320 in 2018.

For apprentices and trainees in training at December 2018 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

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.

The Meat IRC’s 2019 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 and a strong focus on research and development. It is also anticipated that international emphasis on biosecurity, 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.

An extensive range of challenges and opportunities currently faced by the industry have been identified in the Meat IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast. These challenges and opportunities, overall, relate to 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 has been 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, 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.

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 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:

  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 subject enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 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 2018 commencements
  • 2000 to 2018 completions
  • 2018 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2018 collection, by qualification and state and territory.

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

Updated: 31 Mar 2020
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