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How the red meat industry is becoming more sustainable

Australian red meat producers care passionately about the environment in which they raise their livestock. The reality is that their livelihoods depend on a thriving environment and healthy ecosystem.

The Australian red meat industry is a major land user, which makes it particularly exposed to environmental risks such as global warming. That’s why Australian red meat producers are committed to creating a more sustainable industry by managing emissions and water use, increasing biodiversity, creating energy efficiencies, reducing waste and implementing environmentally sustainable land management practices.

These innovations have seen the industry reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by over 78.56%1 since 2005. This means that the red meat industry has been able to cut its contribution to national GHG emissions from 22% in 2005 to approximately 11% in 20211.

Australian farmers, like Smithfield Cattle Company, are enormously proud of the positive difference they have made in this area – and recognise the importance of continuing to improve, in order to leave a legacy for the future.

Is red meat bad for the environment?

Australian research shows production and waste reduction strategies will make a greater contribution to reducing the environmental impact of a healthy diet in Australia than reducing red meat consumption below amounts recommended for good health in the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

The industry recognises that although its practices have less of an environmental impact than other industries like electricity generation and transport, it still needs to work to minimise its impact on the environment even further.

How is the red meat industry becoming more sustainable?

The Australian Beef Sustainability Framework and the world’s first Sheep Sustainability Framework are two industry-led initiatives that are helping red meat producers implement sustainable practices.

Sustainable on-farm practices include:

  • Choosing pastures that require less fertiliser
  • Planting native vegetation to encourage biodiversity
  • Rotating stock from paddock to paddock to allow land to rest.

Producing red meat requires large amounts of energy and water, which is why Australian red meat processers are focused on becoming more sustainable too. Sustainable processing practices include:

  • Capturing biogas from waste streams to generate electricity
  • Recycling water for non-potable uses such as washing cattle and trucks
  • Installing sensors on hand wash stations and sterilisers.


Did you know?

  • Over the past five years, livestock producers have reduced the water used in raising beef cattle by 18% to average 400 litres per liveweight kg. Since 1985, the industry has achieved a 73% reduction. (Source)
  • Comparing the five years from 1981-85 with that of 2011-15, the Australian beef industry has reduced emission intensity (per kg of liveweight) by 20% according to peer-reviewed research. (Source)
  • Legumes that require less phosphorous are currently being trialled as a more sustainable livestock feed in a number of locations throughout NSW and Western Australia, with the assistance of CSIRO.

1 Data analysed from 2021 Australian National Greenhouse Gas Inventory and 2021 Greenhouse gas footprint of the red meat industry