Expectations for locally produced meats—and the reasons for buying them— vary among restaurants, grocers and home cooks according to Big Isle ranchers and swine producers.
Paniolo Cattle Company
Jason Van Tassell, of Parker Ranch’s Paniolo Cattle Company (PCC) in Waimea says “consumers want quality beef with the knowledge the animals were raised humanely and responsibly in a sustainable environment.” He feels local consumers want to know where their beef comes from and the story behind the product: the who, where, when, how and why.
Tassel adds that wholesalers want local beef “at a price they can support” while restaurants need “consistency in quality and supply.”
To help meet the demand for locally produced beef, PCC committed to producing 1500 animals in 2014 and 2015 and has “plans to expand as the marketing chain strengthens.” PCC was launched in 2014 as a joint venture between Parker Ranch and Ulupono Initiative to produce a “more robust, local beef supply chain.” PCC is attempting to reduce beef production costs by focusing on animal husbandry based on sound pasture management, including operating irrigated forage pastures and employing rotational pasture techniques.
PCC beef newly available to shoppers
Starting in February 2016, Paniolo Cattle Company began selling its labeled beef at Safeway supermarkets. Find it at the Hilo and Kona stores on Hawai‘i Island and the Beretania Street location on O‘ahu. It is also available to the food service industry through Y. Hata & Company’s ChefZone.
Kuahiwi Ranch Natural Beef
Michelle Galimba of Kuahiwi Ranch in Na‘alehu says consumers desire a consistent quality product that contributes to the sustainability of Hawai‘i. She finds having a consistent supply is more important to grocers and restaurateurs while chefs request specific cuts and new products.
“A lot of chefs are interested in the idea of utilizing the whole animal, but logistically, it’s difficult for them to do so while following their menu,” she details. Home consumers, she says, want a wide range of cuts and want to know about the product. “If they believe in the product they are willing to pay more.”
Galimba says it’s important for consumers to know that buying locally raised beef “supports island families and supports green space in Hawai‘i.”
The family owned and operated ranch offers pasture-raised, locally produced beef that’s free of antibiotics and hormones. Marketed as “natural beef,” animals are raised free-range on grass pasture and finished on grass supplemented with barley, corn and cottonseed. Meat is processed at Hawai‘i Beef Packers in Pa‘auilo with third-party certified humane practices.
Where to enjoy Kuahiwi beef
Established in 1993, Kuahiwi ranches 2,500 head on 8,500 acres. The beef, branded as Kuahiwi Ranch Natural Beef, is sold at Foodland, Whole Foods statewide and the Volcano Village and Na‘alehu Farmers Markets. It’s served on O‘ahu at Town and Alan Wong’s restaurants and on the menu at the Big Isle’s Volcano House, Kilauea Lodge and Eagles Lighthouse Café—all in Volcano Village. www.kuahiwiranch.com
Ahualoa Hog Farm
Daphne McKeehan of Ahualoa Hog Farm feels consumers need to know local meat “is not from mass-produced animals and a lot of thought and care goes into it.”
Located in Ahualoa, the McKeehans raise hogs and lambs for market and specialize in the “clean, disease-free” breeding stock of these animals. They offer a locally raised “heritage” breed of hog. Heritage breeds are known for exceptional meat qualities that aren’t common in mass-produced swine operations. Ahualoa’s heritage breeds take longer to grow and come to market maturity, but they offer exceptional meat. Hogs are raised antibiotic- and hormone-free on both grain and pasture. The farm also produces lambs in a similar way geared as meat-producing (not wool) animals.
Buy meat direct from farm
Ahualoa sells its meat directly from the farm to isle residents two ways. It can be purchased as a live animal that the buyer can harvest and process or take to a commercial processor. Meat is also sold in frozen packages by the meat cut and pound. www.ahualoahogfarm.com