The red meat and livestock industry makes a significant contribution to the Australian economy, accounting for $17.6 billion of national GDP in ‘18-19 while providing direct or indirect employment for over 400,000 people. Like all industries in this era of climate change, it must adapt to new realities, none more so than in how it uses energy in its meat processing production.
Back in 1984, the CSIRO produced a report noting that the Australian red meat industry “is a significant user of energy, with an energy cost of approximately $1.58 billion per annum” – a phenomenal sum of money almost 40 years ago. It noted that energy was used “in processing for slaughtering, boning, processing and rendering, cleaning and packing” while “refrigeration is one of the main uses of energy, with cool rooms, air conditioning and freezing equipment all-absorbing power.”
While red meat manufacturers have come a long way since 1984 there’s still plenty to be done, as the Australian Meat Processor Corporation acknowledged in 2019: “The [red meat processors] sector’s emissions have been trending down for over a decade.
However, prolonged domestic policy uncertainty, new opportunities to access low emissions technologies, and the emerging international framework of the Paris Agreement all indicate that the sector cannot simply rely on maintaining its past performance to avoid future emissions reduction pressures that could be extremely costly and disruptive.”
There are many advantages to abattoirs and meat processing facilities – of whatever size – moving to more energy-efficient operations, including:
Some improvements involve virtually no cost – such as installing timers to switch equipment on and off, or maintaining seals around cool room doors – while others involve greater investment for long-term benefits.
At Heathwood, in south-west Brisbane, Hilton Foods Australia has developed a state-of-the-art meat processing and distribution facility. The 25,000 sqm2 facility features Australia’s second-largest rooftop photovoltaic solar installation, consisting of 6,000 solar panels capable of generating 2,800MWh per annum, supplying around 50% of the site’s total energy needs.
In 2018, Goulburn abattoir, which uses around 20,000 kWh of electricity every day, opened its bioenergy generator. Through a covered lagoon, effluent waste is biologically broken down to produce biogas which is then treated and transferred to two 800kW dual fuel generators. These can produce around 3,800MWh of electricity per year and supplement biogas with natural gas, reducing peak electricity consumption and exposure to energy prices.
There is another business imperative to moving to more energy-efficient, sustainable practices. As Five Founders Beef, produced by North Australian Pastoral Company, and supports around 200,000 head of cattle.
Energy Action has helped thousands of businesses across multiple industries make the transition to sustainability and Net Zero. (We achieved Net Zero ourselves this year.)
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1. MLA website: https://www.mla.com.au/about-mla/the-red-meat-industry/
2. CSIRO: Power costs in the agriculture sector, 1984
3. AMPC: Emission reduction pathways and opportunities for the Australian red meat processing sector. 10 December, 2019.
4. Energy Source & Distribution website. April 12, 2018.
5. Climate Active website: https://www.climateactive.org.au/buy-climate-active/certified-members/five-founders-beef