Local beef choices are expanding


Buying locally grown fruit and vegetables goes a long way toward supporting area agriculture. You now have several ways to support island ranchers as well. So, where’s the Hawaiian beef? It’s at ChoiceMart in Captain Cook.

This locally owned market champions island produce and products. For several years, ChoiceMart has been carrying local grass-fed beef, satisfying lots of folks. Now they are expanding their offerings to include Hawaii Ranchers beef that will match the flavor and texture of the grain-finished beef some customers prefer.

Hawaii Ranchers is the brand name used on products from the Hawaii Cattle Producers Co-op. The ranchers in the cooperative have been raising beef cattle naturally since 1984. The members agree to raise their cattle on open pastures, free of hormones and antibiotics. They also subscribe to the humane treatment of animals to provide high-quality, flavorful beef for Hawaii residents. Much of the beef they raise is sold in Hawaii as grass-fed beef. Many beef buyers are happy with the grass-fed product which is lower in calories and higher in beta carotene, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E.

For those who prefer grain-finished beef, Hawaii Ranchers have brought Hawaii-born and mainland-finished cattle back to the state. Hawaii Ranchers works with mainland ranchers who share their ideals about natural and humane practices. Calves are shipped from Hawaii to these ranchers who supplement the pasture feeding of the Hawaiian calves with vegetables and grain to improve the tenderness, marbling, texture and flavor of the hormone- and antibiotic-free beef they produce. The cattle are slaughtered, packaged and returned to Hawaii as grain-finished beef.

Now you can choose either type of beef and still support local businesses. Hawaii Ranchers’ natural, pasture-raised ground beef is their product from cattle that have freely grazed in local pastures all their lives. Hawaii Ranchers’ ground beef is available at Foodland stores statewide and at Times Market on Oahu, as well as at ChoiceMart. Ranches participating in the Hawaii Ranchers Natural Beef Program include Daleico, Kahua, Kealia, Kk, Palani, Parker, Ponoholo and Wall.

The reason Hawaii ranchers ship 60,000 of their calves to the mainland each year for finishing and slaughter is simple economics. Hawaii has about 1.2 million acres of land in pasture. To finish those 60,000 cattle in Hawaiian pastures, we would need about 700,000 more acres of pasture as well as large facilities to slaughter and prepare that amount of beef. We would also have to import tons of grain to Hawaii to finish the cattle. Shipping calves to the mainland is the only financially feasible choice.

As with other practices of the Hawaii Ranchers, shipping is a “cattle-friendly” process. Six-month-old calves are accompanied by a stock tender who feeds and waters them during their five-day sea voyage. Once on the West Coast, the cattle recover for a few days before being driven to pasture.

The destination ranches are members of the Country Natural Beef cooperative. These ranches have been producing beef since 1986 though a program ensuring sustainable practices and humane animal handling. Each ranch is inspected regularly and certified under the Food Alliance’s environmental and social standards. The Hawaiian-born cattle graze in large pastures for more than a year, then are fed vegetables and grains for three months prior to harvest. AB Foods in Toppenish, Wash. slaughters and processes the Hawaiian cattle separately, ensuring the beef that is returned originated here.

Check out hawaiiranchers.com for more information about the Cattle Producers Co-op and try the beef bearing the Hawaii Ranchers logo.

Diana Duff is an organic farmer, plant adviser and consultant.

Tropical gardening helpline

Deborah asks: We just bought a condo on Alii Drive. My partner is a soil scientist who wants to grow veggies on our lanai. Are there any salt-tolerant vegetables that might grow in planters in such a location?

Answer: Yes. A few veggies can probably tolerate some salt and might provide you with some homegrown edibles.

Okinawan spinach is a tropical green that is quite good steamed or in salads. Two varieties are locally available. One has light green leaves; the other has dark green, purple-backed leaves.

Broccoli is also known for its salt tolerance. Try broccoli rabe which is better suited to container growing than the standard variety. It will supply you with small florets of broccoli and edible leaves for a long time.

You might also experiment with root crops. Beets are salt tolerant and carrots or turnips might also do well in your location. Choose small varieties and pick them young for the best flavor. Turnip and beet greens are also great to eat.

Rosemary is an excellent herb to grow at sea level. The prostrate variety will do best and can add flavor to many dishes.

If you want to grow some lovely edible flowers, try daylilies. They have moderate salt tolerance and can be stuffed and baked or munched raw.

Let us know how your salt sprayed garden grows.

Gardening events

c Oct. 20: 22nd annual Pumpkin Patch Festival, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s upper campus in Waimea. Loads of pumpkins, contests, prizes, food and entertainment for the whole family. Free entry and parking. For more information, email hpohana@gmail.com or visit hpapumpkinpatch.com.

Farmer direct markets

c Wednesday: Hooulu Community Market, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay.

Plant advice lines

Email plant questions to konamg@ctahr.hawaii.edu for answers by Certified Master Gardeners. Some questions will be chosen for inclusion in this column.

Call UH-CES in Kainaliu at 322-4892 between 9 a.m. and noon Thursday.