The red meat industry is Australia’s largest rural value-adding industry and operates processing facilities across the nation. It has the potential for a large environmental impact on the Australian continent.
In recent times the industry has made significant efforts to invest in modern technologies, practices and staff training to ensure environmental protection and the use of resources in a responsible and efficient manner. This has been assisted by an industry funded environmental research program dedicated to meat processing since 1993. The Australian Meat Processor Corporation funds this research program for the benefit of their members.
Red meat processing plants are faced with ever increasing environmental pressures to reduce their environmental impact and consequently their resources.
The industry’s main resource inputs are water, energy, chemicals and packaging materials. Meat processing plants use very large quantities of water and energy due to the highly perishable nature of the product, the need for high levels of sanitation and refrigeration of the product.
The main waste streams are wastewater and some solid waste. Meat plant wastewater is characterised as having high organic, fat and nutrient loading and require high quality treatment to prevent pollution of surface and ground waters. Much of the solid waste produced is organic and is suitable for land based disposal. The quantity of solid waste disposed to landfill is relatively small.
Stricter environmental standards, tighter environmental emission regulations and waste-water quality requirements, greater community expectations as well as increasing costs for water, energy and waste disposal require the reduction of resource consumption throughout the industry.
Benefits of reduced consumption are:
- reduced costs for resources - water, energy, materials - and waste management
- financial savings
- reduced environmental impact – for example, greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution.
Environmental sustainability reviews are conducted regularly every five years, which makes it possible to follow the environmental performance of the red meat processing plants. The most recent environmental review was completed in 2010.
In order to meet the environmental challenges and ensure environmental sustainability the red meat industry continually works to reduce resource consumption via:
- industry research
- development and implementation of new technologies
- implementation of new processes or economically efficient methods, for example recycling
- identification and realisation of Energy Efficiency Opportunities - EEO - or the usage of alternative energy
- providing knowledge and training to the industry.
The main environmental areas of concern for the industry are:
For further information, please contact:
Program Manager, Off-farm Sustainability
Phone: 02 9463 9249
Meat & Livestock Australia acknowledge the matching funds provided by the Australian government and contributions from the Australian Meat Processor Corporation to support its research and development portfolio.