Concepts of strategic choice have become widely used in industrial relations, particularly as methods of understanding recent historical changes. While the operation of strategy-choosing relative to implementation has generated debate, there has been little discussion of how strategic choices can generate unintended consequences even where there are no apparent weaknesses in implementation. We discuss these issues in the context of under-explored areas of Australian labour history: the history of industrial relations in Victoria’s meat industry and employer activity in the meat industry more generally. Our focus is the creation, by employers, of an intense, industry-wide struggle with the union and, in particular, their choices regarding terrains and methods for that struggle. Using a narrative approach, we explore important unintended consequences that flowed from the interaction of employer-strategising in product and labour markets. These, in turn, generated paradoxical outcomes, given employers’ original objectives.