New southern beef processing capacity will add competition, but further test labour resources

Jon Condon, 05/10/2023

FOUR new or significantly expanded beef processing facilities in southern states will help deliver more competition for the abundance of livestock currently hitting the market, but will equally add further pressure to what is an already tightly-constricted processing industry labour market.

The four processing sites either recently commencing operations, or poised to make a start in coming weeks include:

  • Thomas Foods International – Murray Bridge (SA)
  • Greenham Tongala (VIC)
  • Kilcoy Global Foods – Lance Creek (VIC)
  • Australian Meat Group – Cootamundra (southern NSW)

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on refurbishment on the last three on the list above, while the brand-new Murray Bridge facility replaces an older plant lost to fire in 2018. Some say the new Murray Bridge plant, one of the larger dual-species plants in Australia, may have cost $700 million or more to build.

Combined, the new and expanded facilities will require well over 1000 additional skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled staff to operate near intended stage-one capacity. This, in itself, may prove challenging in the current constricted labour environment.

Some stakeholders argue that much of this ‘new’ capacity coming on stream simply replaces processing capacity that previously existed, rather than being ‘new’ volume.

Either way, the developments stand to add competition for livestock in a market environment that currently desperately needs support.

The activation of the four plants comes at a critical point when cattle turnoff across eastern Australia has grown dramatically due to encroaching drought.

Here’s a brief rundown on where the four projects are up to….

Thomas Foods International – Murray Bridge

Thomas Foods International’s new Murray Bridge facility is still in ‘soft start’ phase, last week processing more than 300 head a day for the first time, on its way to a projected full stage-one capacity of 600 head a day. That’s likely to be reached some time around Christmas.

The new facility replaces the original plant destroyed by fire in January 2018.

It is expected that stage-one of the development will provide new employment opportunities for up to 350 staff.

The project was originally slated for completion by the end of 2022, suggesting it is now close to 12 months behind schedule

Subsequent stages of the development will include further expansion of the beef facilities and additional smallstock (sheep and lambs) processing capacity.

Once fully completed, the Murray Bridge plant is expected to have total processing capacity of 1200 head of beef and 15,000 head of smallstock per day.

  • Thomas Foods International invites skilled and inexperienced workers who are interested in joining its team at Murray Bridge to view current openings by clicking here. 


Greenham – Tongala

HW Greenham will officially open its expanded Tongala processing facility in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley on Saturday.

Click here to view Beef Central’s earlier article on the project, and circle back on Monday for a report on the opening.

Small volumes of cattle started passing through the plant during July.

The new facility will create an additional 230 new jobs at total capacity, providing a market for local farmers to sell high-quality cattle.

Over the next few months, the site will focus on refining processes and systems, planning on reaching a capacity of 700 cattle per day by Christmas and building to its full capacity of 1050 cattle per day by May next year, the company said.


Kilcoy Global Foods – Lance Creek

QUEENSLAND-based Kilcoy Global Foods will start processing cattle later this month at its recently-acquired Lance Creek beef plant in Victoria’s Gippsland region.

As reported earlier on Beef Central, KGF completed a deal to buy the mothballed Lance Creek plant from its offshore-based owners earlier this year, and has since undertaken a major refurbishment at the site.

It plans to start operations in late October, scheduling a soft start of a couple of hundred cattle per week, before scaling-up production early next year. Initially the plant will see a soft start requiring 60 employees, leading to a full staff complement of 300 in later full production.


Australian Meat Group – Cootamundra

Australian Meat GroupAustralian Meat Group has commenced small trial kills through its radically upgraded Cootamundra beef plant on the NSW southwest slopes, which is now a state-of-the-art processing facility.

As outlined in this earlier article, a daily kill of 200 a day is the target in the initial phase, gearing up to 500 a day (single shift) or full 1000 a day (double shift) capacity at some future time.

There’s evidently been a good labour response from local Cootamundra residents, as well as an offshore labour recruitment program. First serious kills are now only ‘weeks away’, Beef Central was told. The lamb chain will follow.

Australian Meat Group bought the shuttered Cootamundra plant in 2020 from Manildra Food Group. Manildra had bought the business in 2014, but closed its doors in 2017 during a period of extreme short supply and high cattle and sheep prices.

Beef Central understands from reliable sources it may have cost $200 million or more to upgrade. In a series of projects, a brand new beef kill floor has been installed with capacity for 1000 cattle a day; new chillers and boning room to cater for the greatly expanded beef output; expanded cold storage infrastructure; and rendering facility upgrade.

Prior to its closure back in 2017, Cootamundra typically processed only around 200-250 head a day. For the lamb chain, the existing, relatively new slaughter floor will continue to be utilised, with some refinements, while lamb chillers have been updated and modernised in a new building.

While sheep processing will not commence until after the new beef chain is up and running, the longer-term aim is to process around 7500 lamb and sheep a day through the facility.

The new cold storage facility utilises the high-efficiency Dematic carton and Stow pallet storage and retrieval systems, which will double in size once the lamb chain is activated.

  • AMG welcomes inquiries about employment at the site – click here.



















Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


Get Beef Central's news headlines emailed to you -