A focus on healthy animals living in good conditions is at the heart of the New Zealand meat industry.  Pasture-fed and naturally raised meat has a unique, internationally sought-after flavour.

New Zealand has a sophisticated meat industry that produces outstanding, pasture-fed and naturally raised meat. The products are tender, flavoursome, healthy and customised for clients around the world.

New Zealand has an almost exclusively free-range grass feed production system producing tender, appetising and healthy products. Animal derived raw materials from New Zealand are also sought after by the pharmaceutical and natural medicine industries. 

Our livestock's diet of fresh pasture, grass and nutrient-rich clover almost completely eliminates grainfeeding and nutritional supplementation. And, with strict biosecurity and quality control processes, our animals produce not only tasty but extremely healthy and safe meat.

The New Zealand red meat sector has been a principal driver of New Zealand's economy and identity. In the year ending June 2015, meat and related products exports were worth NZ$6.8 billion. New Zealand is the global leader in lamb and deer meat exports and exports 92 percent of its lamb production and 95 percent of venison. The country is also a major exporter of beef.

The industry enjoys a unique combination of competitive advantages - industry knowledge gained from a long history as farmers, world-leading research and development and support infrastructure, and stringent biosecurity standards. The combination of these factors allows New Zealand to stand ahead of its competitors and consistently improve its reputation for quality and innovation in the global market.

New Zealand red meat exporters are integrating their marketing with overseas retailers to provide out-of-season product for the northern hemisphere. New Zealand has growing organic sheep and beef industries, operating under standards developed by private sector accreditation organisations such as Bio-Gro.


New Zealand maintains its reputation as a safe and secure supply source. Any major incursions are quickly contained and controlled, minimising longer-term negative impacts on New Zealand exports. New Zealand's strict biosecurity controls, quality control processes and geographic isolation have resulted in an animal disease-free status, recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

The OIE has officially classified New Zealand as being free of foot-and-mouth disease and rinderpest and possessing a "negligible risk" of scrapie. New Zealand is one of only four countries to be free of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or "mad cow" disease). The TB control programme in New Zealand is guided by the National Pest Management Strategy for Bovine TB (NPMS). It is managed by the Animal Health Board under the programme name, 'TBfree New Zealand'. The programme has three main principles for TB disease management:

  • disease control - aiming to control and contain the spread of the disease within cattle  and deer herds
  • movement control - controlling the spread of the disease between herds
  • vector control - aiming to control and contain the wild animal species mostly  responsible for spreading the disease to cattle and deer.


Electronic databases have been used by New Zealand farmers for over 10 years, enabling each animal to be recorded from conception to export.

This system is being expanded with the National Animal Identification and Traceability Project (NAIT) implemented in 2012. NAIT is a robust electronic system, which individually tags livestock with electronic ear tags. In the event of a biosecurity alert, infected animals can be quickly identified and traced by their individual tag number, location and the person responsible for that animal. The scheme is mandatory for cattle from 1 July 2012, and for deer from 1 March 2013.

Food safety

New Zealand sets the highest standards for its food producers to ensure that the country remains a world leader in food safety. The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) is responsible for New Zealand's food-related legislation. Around 200,000 export certificates are issued annually by the MIP for animal products.

E-cert, an electronic certification system, was devised by MIP to track food product movements within New Zealand and to the importing country. This provides food security and sanitary guarantees for the most demanding importers. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Verification Services (MPI Verification Services or MPI VS) verifies that meat, seafood and other animal products and by products, meet both the New Zealand standards and additional standards of importing countries.

Individual companies adhere to internationally recognised and innovative quality assurance systems such as ISO. Sub-sectors are also developing their own quality assurance programmes, for example, Deer QA.

Animal health and breeding

New Zealand's sheep and cattle are raised in free-range open fields year-round, and live on a natural diet of fresh pasture, grass and nutrient-rich clover - eliminating the need for grain feeding and nutritional supplements. A temperate climate also means animals do not need energy-intensive housing during the winter months. Animal welfare standards in New Zealand are exceptionally high and are protected by legislation.


  • A New Zealand company, Scott Technology, is a world leader in automated lamb processing. They have developed a fully automated boning room, which removes meat processing staff from hazardous band-saws, addresses labour shortages within the industry and improves cut accuracy to be more precise on high value animals, giving the farmer and the processor better returns.
  • Celentis Non-Invasive Freezing Detector measures the degree of unfrozen water in a  product using low powered microwaves. It can process up to 10 cartons a minute on a  conveyor belt system and is extremely safe and accurate.
  • Sheep Improvement Limited (SIL) is a division of Meat and Wool New Zealand and provides state of the art genetic information to ram breeders. Through the database and  genetic evaluation system, performance and pedigree information is recorded on farms  to predict genetic merit for individual sheep.
Back to top