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The cost of manipulating temperature within the meat supply chain

Did you know a user-friendly cold chain cost calculator has been produced to help cold chains make better decisions about how to transport chilled and frozen red meat products?

Project start date: 20 May 2020
Project end date: 27 August 2021
Publication date: 24 November 2020
Livestock species: Sheep, Goat, Grain-fed Cattle, Grass-fed Cattle, Lamb
Relevant regions: National
Download Report (3 MB)


Products are stored and transported at different temperatures across the red meat supply chain, which makes it a complex process to sustain. A Federal Government funded study estimated that cold chain deficiencies result in 3.5% losses, which equates to $14 million pa in sheep meat and $42 million pa for beef and veal.

This project provides industry the costs and benefits of changing temperature within the meat supply chain so that both shelf life and the cost of temperature control can be balanced.

A key output of the project is a user friendly cold chain cost calculator, which provides the option to model changes to key parameters within the supply chain that impacts the $/tonne cost for keeping meat frozen or chilled.


The project conducted a comparative analysis of the costs for each stage of transport and storage along the red meat supply chain.

This project informs industry of the comparative costs and benefits of changing temperature for individual segments within the meat supply chain to control shelf life or the cost of frozen meat.

Key findings

  • For vertically integrated cold chains where the operator has control over large stationary refrigeration plant as well as distributed storage, trucking, shipping, or other freight modes, changes to the supply chain can be made to take advantage of higher efficiency or lower power costs to reduce overall supply chain costs.
  • A large refrigeration plant at a processor can take advantage of lower power costs and higher efficiency. 
  • Large refrigeration systems can take advantage of their higher coefficient of performance (COP) to chill product to a lower temperature with the remaining stages in the supply chain maintaining a target temperature band, which reduces the cooling load and cost of cooling stages.
  • The results of this project are to be used for exploration of cold chain improvements to extend shelf life and to determine any significant impacts such as dramatic increases in energy cost or use.

Benefits to industry

Combining an understanding of how temperature control in the supply chain affects both the shelf life of chilled meat and the costs of achieving that temperature at various points in the supply chain allows processors and product owners to optimise shelf life and refrigeration costs for each supply chain.

The use of sea freight and air freight models together can help exporters make better decisions about how to transport product.

MLA action

This information allows MLA to further communicate the cost of keeping product cold and balancing it with the impact on shelf life.

Future research

As an extension of this project, it is recommended that further work is performed with cold chain operators to investigate the impact and cost of holding product at different temperatures relative to waste.

More information

Contact email:
Primary researcher: All Energy Pty Ltd