The Produce Export Department was established in the 1890’s to negotiate lower freight rates, quality certification and economies of larger scale marketing operations including frozen meat.(Pastoral Pioneers of South Australia Vol 1 & 2, Publishers Limited, Adelaide, (1925)) By 1896 it boosted the butter trade and started new exports including eggs, fresh fruit, honey, bees wax, almonds, and frozen meat. In 1895 it established the Port Adelaide Freezing Works and in 1907 an export slaughter works on the site.
Photograph captured in 1896 of the Department of Agriculture, Produce Export Branch buildings at Ocean Steamers Wharf, Port Adelaide. The building on the left is the freezing chambers and cold storage and on the right is the slaughterhouse. Date: 1896
In 1934, following an enquiry, the Metropolitan Export Abattoirs Board was established controlling all meat processing, with the result that all animals were slaughtered at Gepps Cross and the Port Adelaide works ceased. This resulted in significant expansion of slaughtering and freezing capacity at Gepps Cross. Prior to this all slaughtering was done individually or by teams working on individual animals. The new works incorporated moving chain slaughtering. For many years, the abattoirs coldstores were the largest in the southern hemisphere.(Technology in Australia 1788 - 1988,Ch 2, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Melbourne (1988), (Online 2000))
Photo No.: 108795 Title: Export Lamb Competition arranged by the South Australian Branch of the Society of Breeders of British Sheep. They were shipped by the South Australian Government Produce Department to this butcher located in Portsmouth, England. Date: 1910
The Government Produce Department later had a range of other duties including purchasing meat for government institutions (such as goals and hospitals). During World War Two it exercised Commonwealth Government control over the marketing of meat and a range of other produce. Following the War it reverted to the role of supplier of produce to government institutions ceasing to exist in October 1975.