The New Zealand export meat industry has been through a considerable number of changes in the 1980s. The deregulation of export slaughter facilities, Supplementary Minimum Prices, Producer Board intervention, declining livestock numbers and domestic cost pressures have all affected the performance of the domestically based processing sector. Major changes in market access and demand have influenced off-shore marketing operations, particularly for sheepmeats. Additionally, there has been a change in the type of meat exported with a greater proportion of further processed product shipped in recent years. As an example of the impact of these developments on livestock producers, the producer share of the United Kingdom wholesale market return for a representative prime lamb carcase has fallen from 40 per cent in 1978 to 25 per cent in 1988. In this article the pattern of intervention in the New Zealand pastoral meat industries from the mid-1960s is detailed, emphasising the different environments of the beef and sheepmeat enterprises. Then the principal factors influencing domestic processing margins for these products are empirically examined. Alternative model specifications and alternative estimation techniques are compared and contrasted. The results of these analyses are discussed in terms of the historical patterns of assistance and structural change, and in terms of current rationalisation pressures on the meat processing sector.