Sustainable Red Meat Packaging – REPORT

We were recently commissioned to provide a final report on Sustainable Red Meat Packaging for Meat & Livestock Australia.
With detailed insights provided by our International Packaging Expert – Stuart Burt, Global Head of ESG – Sarah Blanchard and our Director and Founder – Mark Field.
This report focused on a horizon scan of Sustainable Red Meat Packaging: what’s new, innovative, and ready to market.

Sustainability considerations are changing the way consumers and end users view pre-packaged meat into retail or food service. Overpackaged or the use of unsustainable materials for food packaging are major threats to the growth of many bran.

With the global focus on sustainability and the ongoing challenges regarding the environmental impact of red meat consumption, the intent of this review was to deliver a horizon scan of red meat packaging. The project was tasked with identifying innovative solutions new to market, industry leading solutions commercially applied in international markets, and to provide the Australian red meat industry with valuable tools to further define their packaging strategy as consumer focus on the environment continues.



The objectives of this review were to identify and provide further recommendations within the scope of improved sustainability perceptions, based upon:

  • Advances in packaging that are commercially available.
  • New patents registered of relevance.
  • Opportunities for improvement of the Australian red meat sector with regards to packaging.
  • New developments nearing commercialisation.

Key Findings

  • Packaging with reduced and / or non-petrochemical based plastic alternatives are available or on shelf, however complete elimination of plastic is not feasible under the current consumption model which requires a robust shelf-life performance. Certain retailers have introduced bring-your-own or deposit scheme containers for meat counter services.
  • For the continued use of plastic to be sustainable, it requires a complete system to collect and reprocess it into materials that can be used again for food packaging. This is developing but limited.
  • Rapid progress is being made on the Australian market by the large retailers in line with government packaging targets for 2025. The amount of plastic used is being reduced, chemicals considered harmful to the environment are being removed, and some fibre-based materials are being introduced.
  • Materials are being designed with recyclability and reusability embedded for example, recyclable plastic trays containing mono materials and recyclable plastic trays containing recycled plastic are available.
  • Advanced recycling technologies are piloting, biopolymers are being tested and effective labelling-collection-sorting schemes are having some effect.
  • Some notable formats include a corrugated paperboard and plastic film which delivers up to 80% reduction in plastic, a flow-wrap format for mince which typically saves up to 70% plastic, multipacks for steaks and other cuts.


Benefits to Industry

Alternative packaging formats and materials enables processors to reduce their plastic packaging, save costs and enhance the reputation of red meat brands.

A guide to choosing sustainable packaging can be adopted by the industry to make better decisions with a sustainability lens.

A path forward is proposed that shows how the industry can move to a fully circular economy which is a desired destination for food and packaging, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and food waste.

Click below to view the full report following our commissioned work with Meat Livestock Australia.

Download MLA Sustainable Red Meat Packaging Report.