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Red meat abattoirs

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Red meat abattoirs are premises used in the slaughtering of abattoir animals for human consumption.

This includes buildings and holding yards.

It does not include premises used in the slaughter of poultry, rabbit, ratite or crocodile meat - see non-red meat abattoirs

Red meat includes meat from bovine (cow, ox, buffalo), bubaline (antelope), camel, caprine (goat), cervidae (deer), ovine (sheep), porcine (pig) and soliped (horse) species.

Licensing, registration

Operators of red meat abattoirs are required to:

  1. apply for a Food Authority licence online or download an application form (PDF), print and post it
  2. meet relevant standards
  3. prepare for routine inspections or audits.

Before being issued with a licence, the NSW Food Authority will carry out an inspection of the premises to ensure all buildings and equipment meet the requirements of the relevant standards.

For more see applying for a food licence.

Skills & knowledge

Meat safety inspectors

All abattoirs slaughtering animals for human consumption need to have an accredited meat safety inspector (MSI) on site at all times during ante-mortem and post mortem inspections.

All MSIs need to comply with the requirements of AS 4696-2007 Australian Standard for the Hygienic Production and Transportation of Meat and Meat Products for Human Consumption (PDF, 554 KB) about meat inspection.

It is the responsibility of the licence holder to employ MSIs and ensure they have the appropriate training and qualifications required to meet the legislation.

All MSIs working in NSW are required to be assessed by the Food Authority to ensure they comply with all requirements before they can conduct meat inspection duties, and have documented approval from the Food Authority.

Animal Welfare

See requirements for all relevant employees and Animal Welfare Officers under Food safety controls and Animal welfare (below).

Construction & facilities

The Food Authority needs to be satisfied that all buildings and equipment connected with the operation meet the requirements of relevant standards. The business will need to meet with the Food Authority to outline how it will meet the licensing criteria.

New premises must be reviewed and approved by the local council and the Environment Protection Authority after they have determined that the building plans comply with the Australian Standard.

Constructing an abattoir

Companies and members of the public who are interested in building a red meat abattoir in NSW often require assistance to interpret the requirements of the detailed and comprehensive Australian Standard (AS:4696:2007 (PDF, 554 KB)).

To help companies that process and slaughter livestock in Australia comply with the standard for construction, the Food Authority has developed some basic plans to serve as a guide.

The Food Authority basic plans are for information purposes only and are not a directive on how a facility must be built. The Food Authority recommends professional advice is obtained when developing abattoir building plans.

Hygiene & handling

A food handler must take all reasonable measures not to handle food or surfaces likely to come into contact with food in a way that is likely to compromise the safety and suitability of food.

Cleaning & sanitation

Red meat abattoirs must implement a documented cleaning schedule that identifies:

  • all fixtures, fittings and equipment used in processing
  • the frequency of cleaning
  • how all fixtures, fittings and equipment are cleaned and sanitised
  • how food contact surfaces and utensils are sanitised, where applicable
  • chemical usage eg. strength, contact times, temperature.

All fixtures, fittings and equipment must be adequate for the production of safe and suitable food, and fit for their intended use.

Routine internal cleaning and sanitation inspections must be undertaken, and records maintained for corrective action taken on any identified issues.

Cleaning chemicals must be suitable for contact with food and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Requirements are set out in AS 4696-2007 Australian Standard for the Hygienic Production and Transportation of Meat and Meat Products for Human Consumption (PDF, 554 KB).

Food safety controls

Sourcing of animals

A person must not slaughter an animal for human consumption at a red meat abattoir unless the animal is one of the following species and not a game animal:

  • bovine (cow, ox, buffalo), bubaline (antelope), camel, caprine (goat) or cervidae (deer)
  • ovine (sheep), porcine (pig) or soliped (horse).

The licence holder needs to ensure that livestock:

  • are identifiable up to the time that the carcase is passed as fit for human consumption
  • do not contain residues in excess of level(s) permitted by the NRS (National Residue Survey)
  • have not been fed feedstuffs that would jeopardise the wholesomeness of the meat and meat products
  • do not have any diseases and/or conditions that could affect their suitability for slaughter. 


The NSW Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development must be notified immediately if a case of a notifiable disease is suspected.

Animal welfare

Each abattoir needs to designate an Animal Welfare Officer to be present on the premises during processing to monitor and take responsibility for the welfare of animals.

Only employees that have completed specific animal welfare officer training will be eligible for the position.

The following measures are required as a condition of the abattoir’s licence:

Animals need to be:

  • handled at meat premises in a way that minimises the risk of injury, pain and suffering and causes the least practicable disturbance to them and to other animals at the premises
  • slaughtered in a way that prevents unnecessary injury, pain and suffering to them and causes them the least practicable disturbance
  • stunned in a way that ensures the animals are unconscious and insensible to pain before sticking occurs and do not regain consciousness or sensibility before dying.

See also:

Requirements are set out in:

Food Safety Program

Red meat abattoirs need to develop and implement a documented food safety program.

This shows the business has examined its food production activities and identified all potential food safety hazards. It outlines how the hazards are controlled, corrective action if they are not controlled, a schedule for regular reviews of the program, and appropriate records to be kept.

Businesses can use the Food Authority food safety program template and adapt it to meet their business requirements.

For more information and the template see food safety programs.


Requirements for product labelling apply, as set out in the FSANZ labelling user guides and Food Standards Code, Chapter 1, Part 1.2 - Labelling and other Information Requirements.

For an introduction and Food Authority factsheets see labelling.

Issue & use of brands

The licence holder for a red meat abattoir may apply in writing to the Food Authority to be issued with a prescribed brand.

The brand:

  • needs to be stored in a locked area where access is only available to the licence holder and the MSI for the abattoir
  • is to be returned to the Food Authority within 7 days after the abattoir licence expires (except during a period of suspension).

The licence holder needs to also ensure that abattoir meat is not removed from the abattoir unless the carcase or part of the carcase from which it came has been branded with a prescribed brand by an MSI or under their authority.

In addition, branding does not apply to:

  • meat that is passed fit for use only as animal food
  • meat that is condemned as unfit for human consumption
  • the carcase of a bird, or meat from the carcase of a bird.

Requirements are set out in Division 6 Issue and use of brands for meat.


Sampling & analysis

Licensed abattoirs must comply with the requirements set out in the NSW Food Safety Schemes Manual. The Manual specifies microbiological testing requirements for red meat abattoirs, which includes testing for E.coli.

  • The licence holder must ensure that samples of water used in connection with the slaughtering of abattoir animals are analysed (does not include water supplied via a reticulated water system).
  • Any analysis is at the licence holder’s expense and must be conducted by a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) or Food Authority approved laboratory.
  • The licence holder needs to notify the Food Authority if an analysed sample fails to meet the standards as detailed in the NSW Food Safety Scheme Manual or those set by the Food Authority.
  • The Food Authority is to be notified: 
    • verbally within 24 hours of becoming aware of the sample failure and
    • in writing within 7 days.
  • Hygienic processing, and hygiene and sanitation require microbiological verification to demonstrate that processing and cleaning are meeting the required standard.

Inspections & audits

Red meat abattoirs will be audited by the Food Authority for compliance with requirements.

The Biosecurity Management Plan Implementation Program is an inspection and compliance program to help licensed abattoirs and knackeries reduce biosecurity risks. 

Read the implementation guide which has been developed for industry to help ensure a robust and consistent, risk based system is in place to maintain biosecurity.

Compliance or regulatory action will be taken if required.

There are fees for audits and inspections, payable by the licence holder.

For more see audits of licensed businesses.

Legislation & standards

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