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Water use in processing

The Issues

The Australian beef and lamb processing industry is a significant consumer of water. Water is primarily used to ensure food safety and hygiene during operations.

Drought and resulting water restrictions have put enormous pressure on processing plants to respond to the challenge and reduce water consumption.

The Facts

The primary source of water on processing sites is raw water.

Raw Water

Recycled Water

Reused Water

Raw water originates from either mains water (town or bore), rivers, dams etc. Raw water does not include recycled or reused water.

Recycled water is wastewater which has been treated on site and is being returned for non-potable uses such as cattle wash.

Reused water is wastewater which is reused within the process before it is sent to treatment.


The Research

The Australian Meat Processor Corporation and Meat & Livestock Australia are supporting the red meat processing industry to implement a more efficient water usage by:

  • Reducing consumption through initiatives such as waterless cleaning
  • Increasing reuse / recycling of water through initiatives such as process improvement and tertiary treatment of water
  • Increasing usage of alternative sources such as rainwater and geothermal systems

Examples of successful water saving initiatives implemented in the industry include:

  • Implementation of sealing and cryovac machines throughout the plant to capture water for reuse
  • Reused water used for yards, washdown, cattle pre-wash, truck washing and other non-potable applications
  • Installation of sensors on hand wash stations and sterilisers
  • Hose nozzle size reduction

The beef and lamb processing sector conducts environmental performance reviews every three to five years to track the industry’s impact on a range of environmental areas, including water use and treatment.