Ranchers and meat producers work closely with chefs to meet their needs. Whether the goal is to achieve a certain flavor, texture or cut, local meat providers are catering to chefs in a variety of ways.
Many Chefs Prefer Feral Pork
Lloyd Case provides both feral and commercial swine for restaurants with his Waimea business, Hawaiian Hogs, Inc. He traps feral hogs of various sizes and also raises commercial hogs. Hawaiian Hogs donates several hogs every year for Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range.
In livestock farming for almost 40 years, Case deals with around 600 hogs on his farm, saying he gets a variety of requests from chefs concerning size of animal and flavor and texture of meat. In addition, he notes Hawaiians prefer the feral animal for luʻaus, and says many chefs prefer it too. Case says these chefs got acquainted with feral pork after assigned the meat at Taste.
“The meat of the feral hog has a different taste as the animal digests a more varied diet in the wild,” details Case. “It’s really a better eating animal and is chemical free.”
Case prefers to catch feral hogs when smaller—about 80 pounds—as they are easier to handle. He gets requests for all sizes though and also traps older hogs.
“Some people want to cook the pig on a spit so then size is key,” Case shares. “We also get requests for an older, bigger animal to make sausages, laulau or kalua pig. The meat of these animals tends to have a good texture and taste for these culinary uses.”
According to Case, some chefs request hogs fed a diet rich in macadamia nuts and fruit. The meat of animals on this specialty diet is especially juicy and flavorful.
“Regarding our commercial swine, we have found that hogs are happier and contented when raised on the ground; so that’s what we do,” adds Case. “When animals are stress free, the meat is softer and makes for better eating.”
Selling Beef Cuts
Chefs often buy certain beef cuts from ranches or the isle’s processing plants—Hawaii Beef Producers in Pa‘auilo or Kulana Foods in Hilo. Michelle Galimba of Kuahiwi Ranch in Na‘alehu has been working with chefs for about four years and has gotten to know the grass-fed beef preferences of chefs. Some want certain cuts, while others—like Chef Justin Wu at the Whole Ox on O‘ahu—wants the whole carcass. “Justin wants the carcass broken down only into quarters so he can cut it to his liking,” explain Galimba. “Most chefs want it broken down more.”
Galimba says she working with the new management at Volcano House to use the whole animal rather than certain cuts. Ranchers get more value for their animals when there is no waste.
“When I first started selling our beef, there were certain cuts I wasn’t familiar with,” Galimba adds. “Now I’m looking at other cuts differently as chefs are willing to use them.” Case in point is what Hawaii Beef Producers refers to as “flap meat” or “skirt steak,” another example is the flat iron steak.
The consumer preference for teriyaki beef—thinly sliced beef marinated in teriyaki sauce—is a godsend for ranchers who need to market the large primal cut at the animal’s rump, called the round. Galimba says the round is a lean, large cut and can be chewy. Top round steak is the beef cut with the fewest calories and the least amount of fat.
“Here in Hawai‘i, teri beef is part of our diet and so grocers will thinly slice round so people can make it,” shares Galimba. “It’s also on a lot of menus.”
Marketing Meat Sustainably
Jill Mattos of Hawaii Beef Producers says she is “constantly” working with chefs and resorts to fill orders for select and certain cuts. For example, a Kohala Coast hotel recently asked for a “109 rib” or rib primal to make several prime rib dinners.
“We might get a request for a steamship round because the client wants to put it on a huli huli machine (spit),” she adds. “A chef may need a bunch of rib eye steaks for a special dinner.” Mattos, who is fourth generation in the grass-fed beef industry and also a rancher, says Hawaii Beef Producers also gets requests for shoulder clods from the Maui Cattle Company
With a goal to be sustainable and use all animal cuts, Mattos will call clients “if she has an abundance of an item” and ask if they want to use it by offering a special. Meat is also branded and sold as Hawaii Big Island Beef at JJ’s Country Meat Market in Honokaʻa.
Producing Consistent Quality Beef
Fulfilling the need to provide chefs with a consistent quality of product is the goal of Tom Asano, sales manager for Kulana Foods. Asano says Kulana works with over a dozen ranches to source grass-fed beef. “These ranchers produce consistent quality beef because they know the importance of providing their animals with quality pasture to bring them to market,” shares Asano. “They tell me they are farming grass.”
Asano says some chefs are also requesting dry-aged, grass-fed beef: a 21-day process that results in a tender product with a concentrated flavor. Executive Chef Hubert Des Marais of The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii uses dry-aged grass-fed beef and he’ll be leading the Grass-Fed Beef Cooking 101 class prior to this year’s Taste, 3 p.m. October 4. https://www.tasteofthehawaiianrange.com/event/Mealani-Event.html
“With the recent trend of farm-to-table cuisine, we see more chefs asking for not only grass-fed beef, but also Hawaiian wild boar, island lamb and island goats,” adds Asano. “More chefs are looking to locally source quality meat for their guests and are featuring those meats at the center of the plate.”
For more info on the dry-aging of beef, visit the previous Taste It blog, Things to Know About Purchasing Beef.