Goat, lamb and chicken producers weigh in on what isle consumers expect in locally produced meats

Expectations for locally produced meats—and the reasons for buying them— vary among restaurants, grocers and home cooks according to Big Isle meat producers. In our last blog we interviewed beef and pork producers, today we hear from those ranching goat, lamb and chicken.

Double “D” Ranch

Double “D” Ranch

Double “D” Ranch
Credit: Courtesy Double “D” Ranch

“Customers want and expect a fresh product that was just walking through the pasture before it ended up on their plate,” says Joanna Nobriga, co-owner of Double “D” Ranch. “They want a product that has a distinct taste and looks fresh.  They want something with minimal inputs and no hormones or antibiotics.  They get that at Double “D” Ranch.  Our animals are raised in a low-stress environment; they are out there enjoying the Hawaiian sun and grazing grass.”

Double “D” Ranch of Laupahoehoe produces pasture-raised goats, sheep and cattle, plus grain-fed hogs, and for the most part, sells live animals direct to consumers. Per customer request, Double “D” will also send animals to Kulana Foods for processing. They also sell fresh, frozen meat, provide farm services to others and sell calves for finishing on the Mainland. In addition, they grow heart of palm.

Double “D” Ranch

Double “D” Ranch
Credit: Courtesy Double “D” Ranch

The Nobrigas started producing goats in 1996 and by introducing new genetics, have improved their herd. Goats are browsers and will eat trees, legumes, forbs (herbaceous flowering plants) and grasses—and your flowerbeds if you don’t watch out!

Regarding the importance of purchasing local meat, Nobriga feels consumers need to know the product is from their “neighborhood.”

Benefits of buying local meat direct

There are multiple benefits when buying an animal direct from the producer. At Double “D”, consumers can come to the farm and choose their animal if they buy the entire animal.  They can also ask questions about the product.

Nobriga adds consumers need to understand it costs more to produce animals in Hawai‘i, so the price tag may be higher. “The cost to get it to market for the producer is higher in Hawai‘i than it would be for a producer in the mainland to raise a similar animal.”

Purchase goats, sheep, hogs and cattle from Double “D” by phoning 808-936-5371 or emailing heartofpalmhawaii@live.com. For more info, visit www.double-d-ranchhawaii.com.

Punachicks Farm

Punachicks Farm

Punachicks Farm
Credit: Courtesy Punachicks Farm

Emily Taaroa, co-owner of Punachicks Farm, feels consumers want to have a connection to where their food is produced. “They want to know the animals were treated ethically and produced with high standards.  Many local consumers prefer to buy poultry and pork from farms that use organic and GMO-free feed.”

Located in Kea‘au and soon to move to a larger farm in Kuristown, Punachicks sells fresh whole broiler chickens, plus chicken livers, hearts, gizzards and feet and also plans to begin marketing lamb. The farm sells to restaurants, retailers and direct to customers who pick up fresh chickens at the farm on processing days.

Punachicks Farm

Punachicks Farm
Credit: Courtesy Punachicks Farm

“Restaurants expect consistent, fresh, high-quality products and are always looking for something new and interesting to put on their menus,” details Taaroa.  “Retailers require special packaging and labeling to make the product stand out on the shelf.”

Regarding direct customers, Taaroa says entire families come to pick up their order and get to see how their food is raised.

“We have been able to develop close relationships with our (direct) customers that we have cultivated through mutual respect and trust.  For those of our customers that live farther away, we also offer a Waimea delivery once a quarter where our customers can pre-order on our website and pick up their fresh chickens at a predetermined time and location,” she continues.

Purchasing local a win-win

According to Taaroa, if you’re able to purchase direct from the meat producer, you get the best prices available while the producer gets the best return for his products.  “Buying local meat keeps your money in our local economy, since farmers love to also buy from other local producers,” she adds. “It may take more effort to buy locally produced meat, but you will be rewarded with a much higher-quality product that you can feel good about feeding your family.”

Chicken products by Punachicks can be ordered direct at www.punachicksfarm.com. The website also lists all the retail outlets selling product as well as restaurants serving it. “We try to make our chickens available for anyone who wants to try them, so they are stocked in almost every health food store on the island for those customers who value convenience and can also be purchased directly from the farm for those who want to get the best price,” notes Taaroa.

Kahua Ranch

Kahua Ranch

Kahua Ranch
Credit: Courtesy Kahua Ranch

“Quality” and a “readily available, consistent product” are what all consumers expect when it comes to locally produced meat, says Pamela Richards Ketchum of Kahua Ranch.

The daughter of ranch founder Monty Richards, Ketchum says Kahua is currently raising cattle and sheep. “Most of our calves will go to the mainland/continental U.S. to different (finishing) programs. Lamb is kept locally and both are sold out of our meat store on property. These products are pasture-raised and -finished.”

Kahua Ranch Ltd. goes back to the purchase of the ranch from Frank Woods in 1928 by the Richards and Von Holt families. The ranch was split in the 1980s to form Kahua Ranch Ltd. and Ponoholo Ranch. Ranching has been a family business for both families for 88-plus years. Kahua is located between Waimea and Hawi on the picturesque slopes of the Kohala Mts.

Kahua Ranch

Kahua Ranch
Credit: Courtesy Kahua Ranch

“Our clients range from businesses taking whole animals to personal/private chefs to individual shoppers, including those who have vacation homes here,” she shares. The customer base is also comprised of people seeking a healthy protein on the advice of their physician. “These doctors are looking to have their patients eat a beef product that helps support the body during an illness or medical treatment.”

Ketchum says animals are raised in a very low stress environment and are provided with minerals to meet nutritional needs; however, they are not fed grains.

She adds, “Local meats do not have to travel far.  Here in Hawai‘i anything that is shipped in has already had to travel a minimum of 2500 miles before making it to the shelf of your grocery store.  Local products are fresher and the product has had less handling… Although meat is aged before being cut and sold, it still is a fresher product when it does not have to travel long distances.”

Visit small, onsite meat market

Purchase lamb and beef direct from Kahua Ranch. Shoppers should phone first to insure personnel are staffing the meat market and to ensure desired cuts are in stock, 808-882-4646. “High-end steaks are one of the first items that sell out,” noted Ketchum. For more info, visit, www.kahuaranch.com.

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Shop, Dine, Buy Local for the Holidays

This week we feature a guest blog by Leomi L. Bergknut who has helped with event planning of Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range and was 2009 chairperson. Growing up in Hilo, she remembers grass-fed beef was a special meal to have for dinner. Buying local, fresh vegetables and supporting our local agricultural economy is a practice Bergknut encourages by supporting local ranchers and farmers. Bergknut is a consultant who has shared her skills with those in the agricultural field as a way of sustaining our agricultural lands for the future of Hawai‘i Island. She can be contacted at honuapo@yahoo.com or at 808-987-3432.

Support Restaurants that Source Local Food

In Kaimuki on O‘ahu, town Restaurant has been able to serve island fresh products on its daily menu. Chef Ed Kenney features many agricultural products from our state: Kuahiwi flatiron steak, locally caught ahi, Big Island goat, MA`O organic lettuce, Hamakua mushrooms and many other vegetables and herbs. Recently, the Kaua‘i shrimp with the Big Isle’s WOW farm tomatoes was tasty, delicious and flavored with locally grown fennel and basil. For dessert, the lilikoi tart had a satisfying rich and creamy flavor.

Town Kahuku ShrimpCarbonated water was served in recycled glass containers and table coasters are made from recycled menus. Our server, Randi, was a source of information and shared, “Local products are used first, organic whenever possible, and being conscious of recycling is done as much as possible.” The couple next to us had a town gift card which is another great way to celebrate the holidays with families and friends! Contact town at 808-735-5900 or www.townkaimuki.com.

Likewise, Hilo Bay Café in Hilo has a wide assortment of local Big Island products on its menu. The lunch menu features many items as the heart of their food is the belief that “local and organic ingredients are better for the Earth and for you.” The soup of the day was a Hamakua mushroom potato bisque with an earthy delicate taste. The burgers at Hilo Bay Café are made from local, grass-fed beef – grilled to your preference with daily toppings of local vegetables.

Hilo Bay Cafe Local Grass-fed Beef BurgerOrder your Hamakua mushroom potpie as soon as you are seated – it takes 20 minutes to bake and is a treat to taste. It even looks like a mushroom — the crust is flaky and there are generous portions of mushrooms to enjoy! The dinner menu also features ahi poke, roasted free-range chicken and grilled Kulana ribeye steaks. Hilo Bay Café serves lunch from 11a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 5-9 p.m. Gift certificates are available and good for two years, 808-935-4939 or www.hilobaycafe.com.

Hilo Bay Cafe Mushroom Pot PieThere are many other restaurants on the Big Isle that are doing holiday gift cards and certificates– contact them and share their island style cuisine with family and friends. It’s a great way to introduce family and friends to locally raised products and vegetables cooked in different ways, while supporting many of our ranchers and farmers.

Fresh Gift Giving Ideas at Farmers Markets

Take time to shop at Hawai‘i Island farmers markets. Make a fruit and vegetable basket for friends or pick-up value-added products. A good find are sausages made with Kona Brewery beer and locally seasoned meats from Daniel and Clare Bobo of Island Thyme Gourmet at the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) Waimea Farmers Market. It’s where you can get WOW Farms fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, gather organic vegetables grown at Honopua Farms and combine them with fresh red veal to create a gift. Visit the Waimea Farmers Market on Saturday’s from 7 a.m.-noon. Another DHHL site is the Maku`u Farmers Market on the Keaau-Pahoa Highway from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays. Maku`u Farmers Market has a wide range of vendors offering produce, jewelry, artwork and food booths.

Hawaii Ranchers, WOW Tomatoes

The Big Island Farm Bureau Farmers Markets feature 100 percent, Hawai‘i grown-and-produced products. The Keauhou Farmers Market, located at the Keauhou Shopping Center in Kona, and the Hilo’s Kinoole Farmers Market, located at the old Food Fair site on Kinoole Street, are both open from 6:30 a.m.-noon Saturdays. Come early and gather fresh produce for your holiday meals! For more info on dates and times, visit www.bigislandfarmbureau.org.

Don’t forget that there are other many farmers markets located on our island which feature other farmer’s fruits and vegetables, locally raised plants such as orchids and handmade items.

Value-Added Products Make Great Gifts

A friend asked where could they get a holiday box of grass-fed beef? Contact JJ’s Country Market in Honoka‘a at 808-775-7744, Kulana Foods Ltd. in Hilo at 808-959-9144 or Kahua Ranch in Kohala at 808-882-4646 for an assortment of grass-fed beef cuts. It’s recommended you place your order two days ahead of time.

A made-in-Hawai‘i assortment of spices, which are all natural, with no preservatives and no MSG, no peanuts and GREAT for seasoning – is Kaiulani Spices; they are available at Foodland and Sack-n-Save stores on the Big Isle. The Hawaiian Spice or the Kona Coffee Rub & Season add flavor to grilled meats and vegetables and make great gifts for locals living on the Mainland. For gift packages or further info, visit www.kaispices.com.

KTA Super Stores has been a great supporter of the Hawai‘i Dept. of Ag campaign, “Buy Local-It Matters,” and many fresh local products found in the grocer’s produce department can be made into gift baskets. Other products available include grass-fed beef, Kona and Ka‘u coffee, locally raised eggs and dairy products, plus many other value-added products.

Sweet potato crunch, chocolate, macadamia nuts

Know someone craving for chocolate and has a sweet tooth? Gift baskets and boxes of locally produced chocolate from island-grown cacao can be ordered online by the Original Chocolate Factory at www.ohcf.us. Find chocolate bars for sale at Greenwell Farms in Kona, which is known for its coffee (www.greenwellfarms.com), and at Island Natural stores (www.islandnaturals.com.) Island Natural Stores also has a great assortment of local honey, which includes The Local Buzz Hawaiian Honey from Na‘alehu.

Honey, tea, coffee

Green Party Planning Tip

If you’d like to go “green” this holiday season with compostable paper plates, cups and utensils – Sustainable Island Products (SIP) has its goods at Island Natural Stores for families. However, feel free to contact SIP if you are having a large party (500+) or if several families are having parties over the holidays and want to share the cost of items at www.1888sip2you.com or call toll free at 1-888-sip-2you. It’s a great gift to give to our `aina and our planet!

A Time to be Thankful

Mahalo to all of our supporters who donated their valuable time, their agricultural knowledge and products toward the 15th Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Agricultural Festival last fall. We thank those who visited our Website and facebook pages over this past year. We appreciate all of you who attended and were able to “taste” the many dishes our island chefs cooked up using our grass-fed beef and other locally produced products. We look forward to your continued support in 2011 and wish all of you a safe holiday season full of peace and joy!

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