Teys's Group Environmental manager, Charles Hollingworth, told about 200 people at last week's Ebor Beef Steakholders Forum in Armidale that the processor estimated direct and indirect costs from the tax would amount to about $5 million on the first year, expanding to $7 million by 2015.
Mr Hollingworth also noted that consumer awareness of beef's association with carbon emissions is high.
That draws attention to the product, Mr Hollingworth said, with discussion around the carbon tax framing abattoirs as "big polluters, even though abattoirs contribute roughly two per cent of total carbon emissions from whole beef supply chain".
Teys has planned a vigorous response to these challenges.
"It's not going to be asmooth ride, but I can say that there is commitment at a company and at an industry level to participate in the low carbon economy," Mr Hollingworth said.
"It's certainly going to change the way we do business - and philosophically, that's exactly what pricing the greenhouse gase externality is designed to do, to change behaviours, to take into account the true cost of doing business, which includes environmental aspects."
Two of Teys plants, Rockhampton and Beenleigh, produce more than 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, and so will be directly liable for the $23 per tonne emissions tax.
The tax will directly cost the Rockhampton plant an additional $880,000 a year, and about $580,000 for Beenleigh.
Mr Hollingworth said the company estimates that it will also pay an additional $3.5 million in indirect costs through energy and other inputs.
"This can't be passed on, either downstream to customers because we're competing in a global market; or back to beef producers, because we're competing with others in our own industry who don't have the same embedded carbon costs."
Teys thinks it has an answer to its direct liability: better wastewater management.
Anaerobically treated abattoir wastewater releases methane, a greenhouse gas with about 21 times the greenhouse potential of carbon dioxide.
Eliminating wastewater emissions would bring the Rockhampton and Beenleigh plants below 25,000 tonnes of annual emissions, removing them from direct liability for the tax.
Teys corporate responsibility code has already given it some expertise in this area, Mr Hollingworth said.
The wastewater ponds at its Tamworth and Wagga Wagga plants have been lined and covered, so that all methane emissions are trapped.
The methane is then burned off through a flare, reducing the waste water greenouse emissions by over 98 per cent.
At its Tamworth facility, Teys is now looking at the feasibility of using the methane it captures to replace the natural gas that fires the plant's boilers.
At Wagga, it is exploring whether it can use the methane to generate in-house renewable electricity.
The Federal government's recent announcement of dollar-for-dollar funding assistance for meat processors looking to innovate around the carbon tax will help Teys implement similar wastewater projects at Rockhampton and Beenleigh, Mr Hollingworth said.
If successful, the projects should reduce Teys’s emissions to a level that will exempt the company from any direct carbon tax obligation.
Tackling the indirect costs of the carbon tax "takes a more sustained and detailed effort".
Teys has set up a team charged with offsetting the increased price of energy by finding more efficient ways of using energy.
Mr Hollingworth said there are multiple strategies under consideration.
Some cooking processes can be made more efficient by removing more moisture from the material before it is cooked, reducing the energy requirements of the process.
Electric motors that consistently run at 100 per cent, or not at all, can be fitted with variable speed drives, so they run at an efficiency suited to the demand.
And new algorithm-controlled technology can be fitted to chillers for much more efficient cooling.
If it achieves its engineering and efficiency goals, Mr Hollingworth suggests that Teys's most important remaining goal is "to communicate the progress we make - not just within Teys, but as an industry".
That reflects the fact that the beef industry is working with "an increasingly informed and aware consumer who is more inclined to act to support their personal values", Mr Hollingworth said.