The Federal Government expects Australia's $7 billion beef industry to double in order to meet demand from Asia, but producers and agribusinesses say that will not be possible without more government support.
Australia is already the world's second-largest beef exporter and the Government's Asian White Paper forecasts the industry to double by 2050.
But people in the industry say a lack of government support, along with competition from the mining industry, means their businesses are struggling to turn a profit, let alone grow.
Grazier Keith Chandler, who sells droughtmaster and hereford cattle at Australia's biggest saleyards in the Queensland town of Roma, says healthy profits have dwindled to bare survival after stagnant prices for two decades.
"Production costs have gone through the roof, particularly fuel and wages," he said.
"We're now competing with the mining industries around us for wages."
The high dollar has compounded the woes for many of Australia's 40,000 beef producers.
Total rural debt is now $66 billion, and Mr Chandler says industry leaders and the Government fail at the basics.
"I don't think they're marketing in the right areas and pushing the grass-fed beef enough," he said.
"Omega 3 is all grass-fed beef. It's better than fish, so why don't they start promoting that?"
Agribusiness drowned out
Darwin currently has no abattoir, so beef intended to be shipped to Asia has to be processed at abattoirs a three-day road-trip away, in Townsville or Perth.
AACo wants its $85 million abattoir to be operating by the end of the year and eventually work up to a production of more than 1,000 cattle a day.
Stu Cruden, the general manager of subsidiary Northern Australian Beef Limited, was brought in from New Zealand especially to set up the plant.
Mr Cruden says the company has had very little support from governments, despite all the claims about an impending boom in the beef industry.
"We received a huge amount of verbal support and that's about where it's finished. It's quite disappointing, we believe," he told AM.
"We've put in $85 million as an investment. We will employ 350 full-time jobs here. That equates to about 800 jobs altogether, when you take the follow-on and support people and that sort of thing.
"But no, we haven't really had the support that we thought we would get just around the infrastructure to be able to build the facility."
Mr Cruden says primary industries simply do not have much clout in Canberra.
"I think that the issue is that the mining companies have a very strong voice in Canberra and agribusiness doesn't at the moment," he said.
"There needs to be a strategy, there needs to be some investment in the north because the opportunity of going through the port of Darwin and into South-East Asia is going to grow very, very quickly."
Cattle producer Jack Burton, who owns seven properties in Western Australia's Kimberley region, says the Government needs to do more than just issue white papers - it needs to act.
"Look at Indonesia for instance - 240-odd million people closer to us than Perth. And one thing that humans need, and it's not a fad, is they need food," he told AM.
But Indonesia is not taking Australian beef at the moment because the live export trade has collapsed.
"I think it's just an absolute debacle what's happened with Indonesia," Mr Burton said.
"We had probably the most finely tuned relationships internationally, at an agricultural level, with a live trade producing feeder cattle going into Indonesian feed lots. And it was just ruined by politics."That's a good lesson - the sooner politics gets out of this and lets supply and demand start creating relationships - I'll think we'll achieve what everyone needs, which is connection between those who produce the food and those who need it."