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The cost of manipulating temperature within the meat supply chain

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
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The red meat supply chain is complicated, as product is stored and transported at different temperatures. A Federal Government funded study estimated that cold chain deficiencies result in 3.5% losses, which equates to $0.14 billion pa in sheep meat (26 ktpa) and $0.42 billion pa for beef and veal (78 ktpa).

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.


The project presents the findings of a comparative analysis of the costs of each stage in the red meat supply chain. The results of this project are to be used for exploration cold chain improvements to extend shelf life and to determine any significant impacts such as dramatic increases in energy cost or use.

This project will inform industry of the comparative cost 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 COP to chill product to a lower temperature with the remaining stages in the supply chain maintaining a target temperature band, reducing the cooling load on these lower COP, higher cost of cooling stages.

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 optimise both shelf life and refrigeration costs, for each supply chain. The relative costs and shelf life loss through sea freight against air freight is a case where the use of these models together can help exporters optimise make better decisions about how to transport product.

There are numerous ways that processors can improve their practices in refrigeration systems and practices, and in tracking their product through supply chains.

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, we recommend further work with cold chain operators to investigate the impact and cost of holding product at a different temperature relative to waste.

More information

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Primary researcher: All Energy Pty Ltd