grass-fed.” The basaltic lava minerals
pulled into forage grasses uniquely
fl avor Hawai’ian beef. Unfortunately,
this taste of Hawai’i is lost when cattle
are fi nished on the mainland.
LIMITED PROCESSING CAPACITY
In 2016, Hawai’ian residents and
tourists consumed over 89 million
pounds of beef, or 198,194 market
animals. Less than nine percent of this
beef was fi nished and processed locally.
Hawai’ian ranchers could sell all their
beef animals (50,000 a year) for the
local market, and increase profi ts, but
there is no capacity to process the cattle.
The Big Island hosts two meat-processing
plants. There is one plant on
each of the other six main Hawai’ian
islands. They can handle 20 percent
of Hawai’ian cattle. This severely limits
options for ranchers.
“It took me three months of calling
to book cattle at Hilo on the Big
Island,” Moore says, “and I only got
a slot for ten head. The Big Island
plants do not plan to expand due to
limitations. The Hamakua plant did
recently start butchering animals into
quarters, and then shipping those
quarters to Oahu for further processing.”
Big Island ranchers can ship live
until the processing became too
costly. “It was hard for the processors
to be economical because of the small
carcass size,” explains Moore.
Moore diversifi es income by not
shipping about 80 of the largest
yearlings each year. She started this
because the headroom in cowtainers
measures 48 inches, which forces uniformity.
The taller-than-48-inch yearlings
fi nish on Kealia’s prime pastures
for the local grass-fed market. For processing
and marketing, Kealia Ranch
partners with a larger ranch that holds
contracts for processing and selling
directly to retailers. Moore reserves
some of the meat to sell through the
Kealia Ranch retail store and at farmers’
markets popular with tourists.
“Tourists want to support local
industry,” Moore says. “The hotels do
too, but they’re hesitant to buy grassfed.
Everybody wants that tender juicy
steak, and grass-fed does have its limits.
Though when I eat a commodity
corn-fed steak, I miss the fl avor of
Paul Kane has co-managed the Kealia Ranch
with Sara Moore for over 30 years. Here he
directs ranch hands to load the new mineral
feeders that the crew designed and built.
The ranch shop looks out
over the Pacifi c Ocean.
74 I WORKING RANCH I JUNE / JULY 2019