Know the numbers: Australian protein production

28 March 2018

Last year, Australia registered a decline in poultry production for the first time since 2008. However, production growth in beef, mutton and pork more than offset the falls seen across both chicken and lamb.

Red meat

Red meat dominates the protein landscape, accounting for 63% of Australia’s production. As the national cattle herd continues its recovery, and in line with increasing slaughter numbers, beef has been the biggest contributor to the increase in Australia’s protein production (29,000 tonnes carcase weight (cwt) in 2017).


The second largest growth in production came from pork, which increased 22,000 tonnes cwt to total 408,000 tonnes cwt – the largest amount in the last decade, but still below the record 2003 production of 419,000 tonnes cwt. In recent years, consolidation across the pig industry has helped drive efficiencies and the growth in production.


The decrease in poultry production in 2017 was the first time in the last 10 years, and only the third time in the last 20, that Australia has recorded any drop. Similar to the broader protein industry, productivity has driven recent growth in poultry; however, rising grain prices in 2017 likely impacted production levels.

Operating environment

The environment that all of these major proteins operate within can vary significantly between industries, which in turn impacts levels of production volatility and ability to recover from extraordinary events (such as drought and disease).

The reproduction cycle and prolificacy of each gives an example of how quickly the industry can potentially recover following such an event:

  • hens produce on average 170 chicks/year
  • sows produce on average 25–30 piglets/year
  • ewes produce on average 0.9 lambs/year
  • cows produce, at best, one calf/year.

Australian protein production

Protein production in Australia for 2017 (tonnes cwt):

  • beef production increased 1.4% year-on-year to 2.13 million
  • lamb production was back 1.3%, at 509,000
  • mutton production increased 10.9%, 188,000
  • poultry production dropped 0.3%, 1.22 million
  • pork production grew 5.7%, 408,000
  • goatmeat production increased 3.8%, to 31,000
  • veal production decreased 4%, to 23,000.

Looking ahead, red meat is expected to continue to grow in coming years. For more information check out MLA’s latest cattle and sheep industry projections:

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