Australians love their beef. Domestic expenditure on beef was estimated at AU$6.6 billion in financial year 2012-2013 (July 1-June 30), according to Meat & Livestock Australia Limited (MLA) an organization that delivers marketing and R&D services for Australia’s cattle, sheep, and goat producers. Australians ate about 71.7 pounds of beef per person during that same time period. Around 94 percent of Australian fresh meat buyers purchased beef in 2012-13, according to AC Nielsen Homescan.
Australia is a relatively small beef producer on a global scale, accounting for just 3.9 percent of the world’s beef, but it is one of the world’s most efficient producers of cattle, says Ian Jenson, MLA’s Sydney-based manager of market access science and technology.
Australia’s national cattle herd stands at 27.5 million head, including 13.6 million beef cows and
heifers, all on 77,164 properties. The gross value of Australian cattle and calf production is estimated at AU$7.4 billion.
The Australian beef industry can broadly be divided into the northern and southern production systems, Jenson points out. “Queensland is the biggest producer of beef and veal,” he says. “Australia has 3 percent of the world cattle inventory and is the world’s seventh largest beef producer. Australia produces 4 percent of the world’s beef supply and is the third largest beef exporter.”
According to MLA, the beef industry accounts for 57 percent of all farms with agricultural activity. The red meat industry employs approximately 200,000 workers across farm, processing, and retail sectors.
Australia produced around 2.2 million tonnes of beef and veal in 2012-2013. (One Australian tonne equals 2,204.623 pounds.) Some 2.6 million grain fed cattle were marketed in 2012-2013, which was 33 percent of all adult cattle slaughtered, as per MLA.
The 2012-13 value of Australian cattle and calf production (including live exports) is approximately AU$7.4 billion, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Cattle contributed 16 percent of the total farm value of AU$47.3 billion in 2011-12. The direct contribution of beef and live cattle to gross domestic product is approximately
“Since our population is small, beef consumption is relatively low,” Jenson relates. “As a result, Australia is able to export a significant volume of beef each year and is the world’s third largest exporter of beef.”
More than 60 percent of Australian beef is exported, making Australia one of the three largest beef exporters alongside India and Brazil. “Australia exports beef to a number of different markets, the largest of these currently being the U.S., followed by Japan, South Korea, and China,” Jenson says.
“We supply a huge variety of grades and types of beef and lamb to the U.S., and have an office in Washington D.C. that can steer potential purchasers in the right direction to meet their needs,” Jenson adds.
The majority of beef exported from Australia to the U.S. is manufacturing beef or trim for grinding, also called 90CL. “Manufacturing beef alone accounts for around one quarter of the total,” Jenson notes. “2014 has been a large growth year for exports to the U.S., largely due to very low supplies of U.S.-produced beef leading to demand for imported product. Beef exports to the U.S. are likely to exceed 300,000 tonnes, this year, which would be the largest annual volume in over a decade, worth more than AU$1.5 billion.”
The beef industry contributes 13 percent to total Australian farm exports and in 2012-2013 the country exported 67 percent of its total beef and veal production to more than 100 countries.
The value of total beef and veal exports in 2012-2013 was AU$5.06 billion. The value of Australia’s live cattle exports in 2012-2013 was AU$590 million.