Australia's beef industry

Australia is one of the world's most efficient producers of cattle and the world's third largest exporter of beef. The off-farm meat value of Australia's beef industry is $12.3 billion. The gross value of Australian cattle and calf production was estimated at $7.4 billion.

Fast facts

National herd

  • Australia's national cattle herd stands at 28.5 million head (*).
  • 77,164 properties with cattle (*).
  • 13.6 million beef cows and heifers (*).
  • The beef industry accounts for 57% of all farms with agricultural activity (*).  
  • The red meat industry employs approximately 200,000 workers across farm, processing and retail.


  • Australia produced around 2.2 million tonnes of beef and veal in 2012-13 (**).
  • 2.6 million grainfed cattle were marketed in 2012-13 (33% of all adult cattle slaughtered).
  • The value of Australian cattle and calf production (including live export) is approximately $7.4 billion (ABARE 2012-13).
  • Cattle contributed 16% of the total farm value of $47.3 billion in 2011-12.
  • The direct contribution of beef and live cattle to gross domestic product is approximately 1%.
  • Queensland is the biggest producer of beef and veal.
  • Australia has 3% of the world cattle inventory and is the world's seventh largest beef producer.
  • Australia produces 4% of the world's beef supply and is the third largest beef exporter.


  • Domestic expenditure on beef was estimated at $6.6 billion in 2012-13 (MLA estimate)
  • Australians ate around 32.5kg per person in 2012-13 (MLA estimate).
  • Around 94% of Australian fresh meat buyers purchased beef in 2012-13 (AC Nielsen Homescan).


  • In 2012-13 Australia exported 67% of its total beef and veal production more than 100 countries (***).
  • The value of total beef and veal exports in 2012-13 was $5.06 billion (**).
  • The value of Australia's live cattle exports in 2012-13 was $590 million (**).
  • The beef industry contributes 13% to total Australian farm exports.
  • Australia's largest export market is Japan, followed by the US and South Korea (***).

Download cattle industry fast facts

Northern and southern cattle industries

Northern and southern beef production enterprises have been strong performers among broadacre agricultural enterprises in recent years.

Read the full northern beef situation analysis report

Read the full southern beef situation analysis report

Cattle numbers by natural resource management region

View the cattle distribution map

All figures based on MLA/DAFF/ABS/ABARE 2012-13 unless otherwise stated.
* - ABS Agricultural commodities - figures for 30 June 2012
** - latest available ABS data - figures for fiscal year 2012-13
*** - latest available DAFF data - figures for fiscal year 2012-13
Per capita consumption figures based on an MLA estimate 2013


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