Every year, Hawaii imports more than 200,000 finished cattle from the mainland.
But starting next spring, shoppers will start to see more local beef in their market.
It's all thanks to a new venture from Kauai-based Kunoa Cattle Company, which sees expanding Hawaii's local beef supply as a key step toward sustainability. Earlier this month, the company finalized a deal with the state to lease Oahu's only slaughterhouse.
"The vision for this facility is to renovate it, rehabilitate it for our purposes as a beef company. Also make that facility open to the livestock community throughout the state of Hawaii," said Jack Beuttell, a partner with Kunoa Cattle Company.
The change has ranchers raising more cows on island. Up until recently, the high cost of feed prompted ranchers to ship most animals out of state.
"So the mother will drop a calf and they would sell off the calf to be fattened on the mainland," said Scott Enright, of the state Department of Agriculture. "So we were bringing the beef back already packaged. With the popularity of grass-fed beef, there has been a revitalization of keeping our beef here and processing it in state and selling it here."
For the past few months, Kunoa Cattle Company has been shipping cattle from Kauai to Oahu to be processed and sold. Beuttell confirms plans are in the works to raise cattle at a second ranch in central Oahu.
"We've entered a new phase in the marketplace where consumers are more conscience of the food that they're shopping for. They're looking for products that are more natural, that are hormone- and antibiotic-free. That are sourced here in Hawaii," said Beuttell.
Revitalizing Hawaii's livestock industry is a key part of the governor's plan to double local food production by the year 2030.
The Hawaii Cattleman's Council supports the efforts from Kunoa Cattle Company.
In a statement, the council said, "It's just one of the many actions being taken to help improve the availability of local beef. But this won't be a total solution for our industry, continuing to send cattle to the mainland is a necessary option due to a lack of available, high-quality, pasture."