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Moving to Net Zero: The meat processing industry in the era of climate change.

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 net zero 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.”

Saving energy, increasing profitability

There are many advantages to abattoirs and meat processing facilities – of whatever size – moving to more energy-efficient operations, including:

  • Reducing energy costs and reliability in using electricity from the grid.
  • Extending equipment life, reducing downtime and maintenance schedules.
  • Improving environmental performance through lower greenhouse gas emissions.

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.

Powering Ahead with Solar

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.

According to estimates, 6,000 solar panels can generate 2,800 MWh per year, which can supply around 50% of the total energy needs of the site.

Turning waste into energy

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.

Act now to make an impact tomorrow

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.)

Energy Action’s services include:

Step 1: Measure your usage and emissions

Step 2: Lower your costs.

Step 3: Consider your emission reduction options

Step 4: Procure at least-cost

Step 5: Fulfilment of certification management

Through our solar auction platform, you can quickly and easily get the right solar solution, at the best possible price, and select the right purchasing method for you. Installing solar will save your business considerable sums while lowering your emissions and reducing dependency on the grid.

To find out more about how we can help the meat processing industry in their Net Zero goals, contact us.


1. MLA website:

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:

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