New Zealand meatworks invest in automation technology amid labour shortage

Meatworks across the country are investing in multi-million-dollar mechanisms to automate their process.

They say it's a solution to meat market demand amid crippling labour shortages.

The future of meat processing is set to mechanize.

"There's probably 2000 people short that we need right across our industry," Alliance CEO David Surveyor said. 

Meat processors and butchers can take years to train and are hard to find.

"I've advertised a few times, all the good butchers are working elsewhere already," Beckenham Butcher manager Michael Vivian said.

Alliance has taken matters into their own hands, investing in automation technology.

"We've been thinking about automation for a number of years," Surveyor said.

"So this is just another of a series of investments. We've got a number of machines into our plants, this is our fourth one."

The Primal System processes up to 600 carcasses an hour, allowing the business to redeploy workers to other areas.

"Combining world-leading vision systems with robotic cutting, which maximises productivity and yield and reduces any of the health and safety risk," Scott Technology CEO John Kippenberger said.

It also reduces the need for migrant workers. This comes as the Government opens the border to another 500 meat processing workers, on top of a border exception for 150 workers which has already been taken up.

But National said the Government has not been quick off the mark.

"Yes we had to close the borders, but the whole system is calcified and it's been very slow even before COVID," National Party leader Christopher Luxon said.

According to the industry, the labour shortage also drives up meat prices as they're unable to maximise the processing of each carcass.

Stats NZ said in the year ended in March 2022, meat and poultry prices rose by 9.1 percent.

To meet market demand, Alliance will continue turning to technology.

"There's no doubt that we will be increasing automation," Surveyor said.

Trimming labour demands with cutting-edge technology.