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Meat Processing in the South African Climate: Equipment Care and Maintenance

April 16, 2024

The meat business in South Africa has a long-established history, and it is now crucial to the state’s economy. So, today, we are going to look at the South African meat processing industry as a whole, where it stands and a list of the challenges it faces with the climate and what measures are in place as far as its meat processing equipment to meet the challenge…Sound intriguing? 

Well, read on, as we’ve got plenty to cover.

South Africa’s Meat Industry Beginnings

Firstly, the meat business started to be a powerful industry in South Africa at the end of the 19th century. At that time, people were using the veldt for pasture and very high percentages of native cattle were slaughtered. 

Every time the veldt was burned, new ones grew back almost immediately, so the lands were rejuvenated in an incredibly short time, which was a fantastic opportunity for farming.

Trade Gets Big!

Then, at the beginning of the 20th century, South Africa came to dominate the trade with Britain regarding beef imports. The country saw a significant emphasis on meat-processing and meat-preserving industries, and this market expanded, allowing South Africa to become exceptionally important to Australia by 1911.

A New Focus on Sheep

In terms of sheep, South Africa very soon took a leading position in wool production for export in the world. Just to give you an idea, in 1913, sheep accounted for almost half of the total number of animals. This shows meats were a strong and crucial item in agriculture.

Avian Expansion

Secondly, the farming of mammals was a big thing in South Africa, but things started to change with the expansion of avian farming in the 1920s. To be more precise, the country began producing chickens and turkeys, and nowadays, most meat consumed globally comes from chicken.

Thirdly, at the beginning of the 20th century, beef was still the main meat in the country and the most important export, accounting for 78 percent of the total. 

Nowadays, the figures could have changed due to the expansion of poultry farming, and meat processing equipment, but it remains a large percent.

Historical Development

  • Indigenous Farming – Cattle domestication in Southern Africa goes back about 2000 years, and the history of indigenous cattle farming is thousands of years older. Indigenous farming has a long history in Southern Africa and has been integral to the societies that have populated the country since time immemorial.
  • Colonial Incursions – European settlers brought in new breeds and new ways of farming to change the direction of meat production. 
  • 20th Century Expansion – This expansion occurred in the 20th century with South Africa developing the strongest meat infrastructures, including production, processing and distribution.

Current Global Standing

  • Market Size – When this was recently assessed for 2024, figures showed USD 629.69 million. And is predicted to achieve USD 878.23 million by 2029 with its CAGR at 6.88% during this forecast. 
  • Exports – The total exports of beef in South Africa in 2020 were about 37,000 tons, with an export value of R2.5 billion. This is much more than in previous years. So, although COVID-19 had a major impact, people know that the market will return.
  • Regional Leader – South Africa is the largest regional exporter of processed meat. The market for locally produced processed meat products is well-developed to supply both the domestic and export markets.
  • Trends – Growth in the food service sector, rising consumption of meat: By 2030, the food service sector will be expanding along with the rising influence of cross-cultural dietary trends and internationally connected consumers of meat.

In no small measure, as a result, the South African meat sector has continued to keep pace with global trends and consumer demands, and its export industries remain competitive in the international market. 

Moving forward, the sector’s evolution will continue on a similar trajectory, with a main focus on quality, safety and sustainability that is achieved through the innovation of its meat processing equipment among other things. These remain core tenets of its global brand recognition.

Today’s Climate Challenges

Keeping the meat processing equipment and all plant apparatus in good shape in South Africa requires the following considerations:

Temperature and Humidity

The climate in South Africa varies quite substantially throughout different regions, and heat is a significant factor with major implications on equipment processing capabilities and equipment longevity. High humidity can also impact equipment and food products.

  • Dirt and Pollutants: Areas with heightened levels of dust or airborne contaminants can lead to a shortened life of meat processing equipment.

Equipment Care and Maintenance

Disinfection and Sterilisation Cleaning should be performed regularly so that contamination is minimised and hygiene standards are maintained. 

An appropriate cleaning agent and method that is effective and does not compromise the equipment should be used.

  • Lubrication – Mechanical parts for which relative motion must take place require periodic lubrication because the presence of excess frictional force in high-temperature environments can cause overheating.
  • Inspection and Calibration – Equipment that is inspected and calibrated on a routine basis can be stopped before it breaks, and its accuracy is checked in a timely fashion against the manufacturer’s definition of what it should do.
  • Elements – Tool storage and working areas should be protected from direct sunlight and rain, and locations where non-live tools are stored should be well-ventilated to reduce the risk of rust and corrosion.
  • Training – Train them on usage, care and maintenance so that they don’t misuse the equipment and can continue to use the device for longer periods.

Resources and Guidelines

  • BMPE – Food Processing Systems – BMPE is a supplier of new and used food processing systems to the food processing industry in South Africa, manufacturing products to our own specifications.
  • IFC Practical Guide – Detailed recommendations to enhance resource efficiency in South African abattoirs processing red meat, including increasing water and energy efficiency, which can impact the care of equipment indirectly. 
  • HACCP Systems – HACCP systems employ hazard-analysis critical-control-point (or HACCP) procedures as a way of developing and implementing food safety plans. Hazard analysis is performed to determine what could go wrong in a food manufacturing system. From there, a list is created detailing potential hazards, and the critical control points are identified. These are the steps where in-process control is essential to prevent specific hazards.

Innovation and Technology

  • Energy-efficient Equipment – Energy-efficient equipment in the ticketing issuing room could save operational costs and would be able to resist the South African climate.
  • Waste Management Systems – Proper waste management systems are necessary to maintain production equipment and prevent environmental contamination. 


Despite climate and global shipping challenges where prices are higher now than pre-pandemic levels, South Africa has been innovative and forward-thinking with their meat processing equipment manufacturing and acquisition and still remains one of the world’s bread baskets when it comes to the global meat industry.