It is considered iconic in both Australia and the neighbouring New Zealand. It was described by former New South Wales Premier Bob Carr in 2003 as Australia's "national dish". Similarly, in New Zealand it is regarded as a quintessential national dish and dubbed a part of traditional New Zealand food or Kwisine Kiwiana, and often described as a Kiwi/New Zealand meat pie.
The popular brand Four'N'Twenty produces 50,000 pies per hour and Australians consume an average of 12 meat pies each per year. . However, the average consumption of meat pies in New Zealand is higher at 15 per person per year. The meat pie is heavily associated with Australian Rules Football as one of the most popular consumed food items whilst watching a game.
The Australian meat pie manufacturer Four'N'Twenty says that its pie was invented in 1947 by L. T. McClure in a small Bendigo bakery, to become the brand Four'N'Twenty. Due to their relationship with Australian rules football, Four'N Twenty has iconic status in Victoria and high popularity outside the state.
Other manufacturers predate this, and the pie manufacturer Sargent can trace their pie making back to 1906. Sargent meat pies were served at the opening of the Old Parliament House in 1927 — or rather 10,000 pies were not served and the left-over pies had to be buried nearby.
In South Australia, Balfours has been making pies since the early 1900s and remains (with Vili's) one of two major pie manufacturers in the state. Both of these pie makers supply pies to various venues hosting AFL games.
Produced in Western Australia, Mrs Mac's Pies are now sold nationwide, found mostly in service stations and corner stores, competing with other brands in the contested takeaway hotbox market on the basis of quality and fillings other than the normal fare.
In Victoria, some of the well known and famous pie makers are Clarke's Pies from Mortlake, Kings Pies from Hamilton, Gillies from Bendigo, Beaumont's Pies from Geelong and Patties Pies from Bairnsdale.
In Tasmania, the main manufacturer of pies is National Pies, ironically a Tasmanian only company, as they have not yet started interstate sales. National Pies make typical beef mince pies, as well as "Cottage Pies", which are topped with mashed potato. National Pies' mince pies are rectangular in shape, as opposed to most other brands, which are round.
In April 2002, the Australian Consumers Association conducted a study of 22 frozen meat pies available in supermarkets. They found three brands did not meet the minimum 25 per cent meat content requirement set by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), they also found that the fat content ranged from 15 to 35 grams of fat per pie. The ACA study was of a select group of frozen meat pies in supermarkets, thus the study does not account for freshly baked meat pies of which the meat content and nutritional value varies from bakery to bakery. Another study by ACA in 2006 found 5 of the 23 pie products tested had less than the minimum 25% meat required.
In 2006, The ACA awarded pie manufacturer Black and Gold "The CHOICE Shonky Award for UnAustralian Content" for their pies found to contain just 17% meat.
The meats allowed by FSANZ in a meat pie are beef, buffalo, camel, cattle, deer, goat, hare, pig, poultry, rabbit and sheep. Kangaroo meat, a leaner alternative, is also sometimes used. However, most pie manufacturers specify 'beef' in their ingredients list; typically, those using other types of meat will simply put 'meat' in the list instead. FSANZ's definition of meat includes snouts, ears, tongue roots, tendons and blood vessels. Only offal (such as brain, heart, kidney, liver, tongue, tripe) must be specified on the label. Wild animals ("slaughtered ... in the wild state") may not be used.
The contest attracts various pie makers Australia wide, the pies for the contest are judged anonymously to avoid bias towards or against specific bakeries or states. Run in parallel to the main contest is one for gourmet pies, with categories for such fillings as chicken, seafood and even vegetarian pies. As well as the main prize, certificates of excellence are awarded for entries that reach set quality standards. The main award is highly coveted due to the greatly increased sales it generates, with many people travelling interstate to sample the winning pie.
Fair-Go Dibbler, citizen of Fourecks in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, is famous for selling "meat" pies to his unsuspecting customers. Those paying a substantial premium may get one containing a named meat.