Considered to be Australia’s seventh largest industry, the meat export industry earns about $4.5 billion a year and has about 26,000 people employed. While the industry itself has been around since the first cows were introduced in the continent back in the late 1700’s, Australia’s meat industry only begun to develop into the powerhouse that it is now in the 1960’s. Since then, the patterns of demand for meat have changed and it is slated to rise as the years pass by. Australia has become a strong player in the global export market, where it has become the third largest exporter of beef, and the largest exporter of both mutton and goat meat.
A lot of factors have influenced how this industry has changed and grown in the past few decades, and we will be summarizing those factors here today, to help us better understand this economic powerhouse.
Australia’s meat industry is tied to the history of beef production, with beef being the first to thrive. Beef was first introduced in Australia in 1788, with the first herds consisting mostly of British breeds, the Shorthorn, in particular. Because of Australia’s vast expanses of land, there was no shortage for pasture, and the original pioneers have found that these herds thrived well in its territories. It wasn’t until 1812 when Australia’s commercial livestock trade commenced, however, with the first shipments being made up of horses exported to New Zealand.
The Loss of the British Market and the Rise of the U.S. Market
In 1960, Britain officially cut off its preferential trade agreements with the Commonwealth countries, and this included Australia. Though this blow to the industry was softened by America’s opening of its own market, where grinder beef dominated, Australia’s meat industry still saw a slow decline, until ultimately crashing in 1974. Oversupply to the US eventually led to the crash of cattle prices, and demand for Australian beef disappeared almost overnight. By 1978, Australia’s herds were halved, with many of its exporters exiting the market.
Trade in Asia and the Opening of the Japanese Market
The Australian meat market kept going after the crash, however, if only barely. Australia opened trade with a number of countries in Southeast Asia, but the major springboard for the industry that would catapult it to the top was the opening of the Japanese market in the mid-1980s. Competition between the U.S. and Australia to dominate the meat market in Japan soon started, and because of the stringent quality assurance in Australia’s industry, Japan’s consumers, who preferred better quality products over everything else, helped propel the Australian meat products to where it is now.
Though there is very little difference with the actual quality with American and Australian meat nowadays, the perception in Japan that Australia has better beef is still prevalent, and companies that export high-quality meat, with Australias Livestock Exporters just being one of many, continue to make the country a major exporter of meat products. With a strong hold over the Southeast Asian and Japanese markets, Australia continues to expand its meat industry despite stiff resistance from the U.S. and even Europe. As the industry continues to grow, newer viable markets are also becoming available, even encouraging further growth.
With global meat demands projected to rise by up to 2% in the next few years, Australia’s meat industry won’t seem to be stopping its dominion over meat exports any time soon. With it owning a huge percentage over the meat export pie, Australia is in a great position to capitalize on whatever growth the industry will see itself in the future.