Stepping stones to a rewarding career

Career pathways in meat processing

Meat processing offers a wide range of job opportunities for people in places like abattoirs, boning rooms, smallgoods, food services and retail outlets as well as more technical areas such as meat safety/inspection, quality assurance, logistics management, effluent treatment and environmental control. While training you are fully paid and your skills are recognised throughout Australia.

Three main sectors of the meat industry are:

  • Smallgoods
  • Abattoirs
  • Food Services
  • Retailing

Careers are available in team leadership, human resource management, occupational health and safety, training and marketing.

The Australian meat processing industry generates approximately $8 billion a year to the economy and employs around 60,000 people. The industry provides many career opportunities and more than 90 per cent of the workforce holds a qualification or currently in training.

Training is conducted mostly on-the-job and there are opportunities to work internationally. Many of the skills can be transferred to other sectors of the food industry, and you can specialise or to become a supervisor or manager. Support is available for further education and training.

Jobs and qualifications

Stockman No applicable qualification
Slaughterman Certificate III in Meat Processing (Slaughtering) »
Boner/Slicer Certificate III in Meat Processing (Boning Room) »
Abattoir Management Diploma of Meat Processing »

As abattoirs become increasingly large regional enterprises the duties of their stockman have increased substantially in complexity and scope. Abattoir stockmen manage the delivery of different types of stock through a yard system to the preparation yards where stock may be cleaned, identified, drafted and presented to the killing floor. To ensure a timely arrival of stock each day, stockmen arrange feed, water and shelter for a wide variety of livestock.


After the beast is humanely killed and bled, the hide or pelt is first removed and then the internal organs are recovered for further processing. High-speed saws are then used to break the carcass into more manageable portions for boners and slicers further along the chain. In some cases the carcasses are trimmed to remove fat deposits or blemished meat.


Boners and slicers are adept in wielding knives to cut meat away from the skeleton and major ligaments. Accuracy in breaking down the carcase into the major portions contributes much to the retention of the highest values for the end product. Slicers further reduce the meat portions into the major cuts required by each end-market such as supermarkets and butcher shops.

Abattoir Management

Abattoir management careers have taken on diversified functions as over the past 40 years the number of abattoirs has declined quite dramatically. As supermarkets and export outlets grew in significance meat processors needed to upgrade their facilities to attain globally competitive operational efficiencies.

These developments now demand a broad range of additional management skills ranging from financial, logistical, marketing, purchasing, quality control and effluent management as well as the creation of by-product manufacturing capability.


The smallgoods sector employs around 6,800 workers at approximately 160 mainly urban-based establishments, including large manufacturers. It provides jobs in packaging, smallgoods manufacturing, laboratory, quality assurance and management. These jobs include::

  • preparing meat for sale by removing bones and trimming fat,
  • making seasonings, flavouring agents and pickling solutions and pickle meat according to recipes,
  • preparing crumbed cuts of meat to produce smallgoods, and
  • operating machines to grind, mix, mince and tenderise meat

Australia has approximately 300 abattoirs (including boning rooms) and a largely young workforce of around 25,000. Half of all workers younger than 35.

Meat processing workers perform a wide range of tasks, including handling livestock, slaughtering and processing livestock, environmental control, operating processing and rendering equipment.

There are three specialisations in the processing sector: slaughterer, renderer, boner and slicer. With increased training you can develop skills in technical areas, such as meat safety inspection and quality assurance orsupervision and management.

Food Services

Food services is a combination of meat retailing and meat processing. Food services sector offers work in traditional meat retail shops, meat departments in supermarkets, or in abattoir boning rooms, which specialise in producing value-added meat products.

Training covers health, safety, hygiene, quality and productivity, plus knife sharpening, value-adding, bandsaw operations and product testing.


The meat retailing sector offers work in independent butcher shops, supermarket butchers, meat departments, abattoirs and wholesalers. There are approximately 24,000 employees in Australia and around 1,000 new apprentice butchers each year.

As a meat retailer you would be trained in selecting, cutting, trimming, preparing and displaying meat for sale.

Training will include hygiene and sanitation practices, communicating in the workplace, knife sharpening, identifying species and meat cuts and trimming.