Environmental Issues in the meat industry

All States and Territories have Environmental Protection Acts with relevant regulations and policies that emanate from these Acts.

The main issues usually covered by these Acts include:

  • air quality
  • water quality
  • land quality and uses
  • waste disposal
  • noise control.

In addition the Commonwealth Government has National legislation, in particular the National Environment Protection Council Act that acts as an umbrella forum for the States and Territories to coordinate responses over National environment issues.

The Commonwealth Government also has National legislation that covers the import and export of potentially hazardous substances such as chemicals and radioactive material.

There is also an international Standard for environmental sustainability, ISO 14001: Environmental Management Systems.

What legislation and standards apply specifically to meat processing?

Most Environmental Protection Authorities have the following basic requirements for meat slaughtering operations particularly if they include rendering.

  • A sufficient buffer from neighbours.
  • Control over odour emissions.
  • The capture and treatment of wastewater and stormwater.
  • Noise or dust should not be a nuisance.
  • A plant must have a continuous improvement in environmental performance with environmental controls designed to meet future needs.

What environmental sustainability practices can be applied at meat processing plants?

In Australia, cattle, sheep and goats are raised under extensive broad acre conditions. As ruminants they are very efficient converters of the sun’s energy as found on plant material into meat for our consumption.

The most important thing to do is to maximise yield from the input resources and eliminate or reduce the volume or toxicity of waste prior to generation, treatment or disposal. Minimizing waste generation and optimising resource consumption is more cost-effective than relying on end of the line solutions. In meat processing plants the main means of doing this are by:

  • implementing improved housekeeping practices
  • increasing employee training/involvement
  • substituting raw materials with environmentally sustainable materials, and
  • implementing new technology/product designs.

When implemented these initiatives can help to:

  • reduce the risk of legal liability
  • reduce operating costs
  • improve employee morale, participation and safety
  • enhance company’s public image
  • protect the public health and the environment.

The main areas where changes can be made are:

  • by introducing an environmental management system
  • in water use and wastewater production
  • in energy use
  • noise reduction for WHS reasons
  • the reduction of air pollution.