Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Wednesday, July 24, 2024 84° Today's Paper


Column: Expansion benefits local beef ranchers

Zanga Schutte is a third-generation rancher on Hawaii island.
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Zanga Schutte is a third-generation rancher on Hawaii island.

Scott Enright, former Hawaii Department of Agriculture chairman, is a consultant to Hawaii Meats, LLC.
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Scott Enright, former Hawaii Department of Agriculture chairman, is a consultant to Hawaii Meats, LLC.

Bobby Farias is president of Hawaii Meats, LLC.
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Bobby Farias is president of Hawaii Meats, LLC.

Zanga Schutte is a third-generation rancher on Hawaii island.
Scott Enright, former Hawaii Department of Agriculture chairman, is a consultant to Hawaii Meats, LLC.
Bobby Farias is president of Hawaii Meats, LLC.

Capitalization has always been, and will continue to be, a challenge for agriculture and sustainability in Hawaii. However, there is great opportunity with the recent purchase of the state’s meat packing facilities by Hawaii Sustainable Beef Enterprises, which has made large financial investments toward renovations and upgrades.

The ability to use the two plants — Kalaeloa on Oahu and Paauilo on Hawaii Island — synergistically allows for efficiencies and expanded capacity once renovations are complete and new equipment is installed.

Keeping up with capacity during the pandemic has been no easy task given the closures of our large customers in the food and beverage industries. However, we have kept up with volume.

That means we have managed to keep our employees in their jobs with their salaries and benefits. For ranchers, this means no disruption in getting their cattle to market or payments. This is possible under the leadership of Frank VanderSloot, owner of Hawaii Sustainable Beef Enterprises. He believes in keeping the workforce in place and ensuring that the ranching community won’t have to face an inventory issue — or struggle anymore than they already are.

During the last 18 months, the Kalaeloa plant processed over a million pounds of meat — 300,000 pounds of which are still stored and another 100,000 pounds that went to families in need.

While this was a very costly decision, it was made for optimal long-term planning. VanderSloot supports the ranchers not just with his words but also in his actions.

It is unfortunate that the commentary by Dutch Kuyper, Michelle Galimba and Tim Richards (“Meatpacking monopoly rises in Hawaii,” Star-Advertiser, Island Voices, Feb. 17), chose to label and demonize rather than accurately assess the situation in Hawaii’s cattle and beef industry.

As Hawaii continues to import 80% of its beef from outside the state, Hawaii Sustainable Beef Enterprises seeks to expand and provide state of the art equipment to better process local beef — allowing ranchers to prosper.

For decades, processing capacity has been dominated by large producers — like Parker Ranch — leaving little opportunity for small ranchers with less cattle to slaughter. Expansion allows small ranchers access to new processing facilities.

Will expansion and access to the marketplace compete with those already established brands and producers?

It certainly is our hope, because competition in the marketplace will benefit consumers as well as small ranchers. That’s something Parker Ranch — the largest ranch in the state — seemed to overlook when they called the changes led by VanderSloot a move to establish a “monopoly.”

Historically, a monopoly of any kind has disenfranchised the smallest stakeholders as witnessed by the testimony submitted in overwhelming opposition to the proposed legislation drafted by Parker Ranch aimed at preventing VanderSloot from expanding capacity.

We applaud the state Legislature in its handling and disposition of House Bill 1206 and Senate Bill 692. The bills would have tied the hands of Hawaii Sustainable Beef Enterprises, but more importantly, would have stymied growth and expansion of the state’s meat processing facilities and ultimately the growth of ranching in the state. Lawmakers were willing to foster change and recognized the possibilities this plan opens up. We thank them for their wisdom and leadership.

The parties within the industry must now address concerns in good faith, with integrity and trust. This requires building relationships with the stakeholders, ranchers (large and small), as well as the community at large through ongoing conversations and problem solving within the industry.

Fear of this expansion serves no one. We all must have the courage to seize opportunities that would build up our agriculture prospects to the fullest and increase local meat production. This change can be viewed with fear or optimism. We choose optimism.


Bobby Farias is president of Hawaii Meats, LLC, and a third-generation Kauai rancher; Scott Enright, former Hawaii Department of Agriculture chairman, is a consultant to Hawaii Meats, LLC; Zanga Schutte is a third-generation rancher on Hawaii island.


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