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
“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.
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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.