The County of Hawai’i held a blessing this morning to commence $4.15 million worth of improvements to the State-owned slaughterhouse in Pa’auilo. Funds for the improvements were appropriated by the State Legislature and released by the Governor directly to the County of Hawai‘i to implement improvements that will help secure the future of Hawai‘i Island’s grass-fed beef industry.
“If the rancher cannot ranch and the farmer cannot farm, we’re all in trouble. This isn’t all that we need, but it’s an important first step. We look forward to Hawai‘i Island being able to grow and expand our grass-fed beef industry,” said Hawai‘i County Mayor Billy Kenoi.
The proposed project will make much needed improvements in the critical areas of wastewater disposal, rendering of unusable solid waste, and refrigeration space to expand plant capacity and improve meat quality.
When complete, the plant’s capacity will increase by 40% and reduce the current processing backlog that makes it difficult for ranchers to bring their animals to market in a timely fashion. Improvements will also transform waste that currently goes to the landfill into useable value-added and energy producing by-products. Improvements will also address outstanding wastewater issues.
Once complete, the improvements will create new employment opportunities and increase the economic sustainability of the Hāmākua district.
“The future of beef depends on an up-to-date processing plant that can accommodate all the ranchers’ needs. Hawai‘i Beef Producers does, at present, three to four hundred head a month. With these improvements, we hope to increase to 600 head a month and add on 10 to 15 more employees,” said Jill Mattos of Hawai‘i Beef Producers.
Contracts for the work have been awarded to three separate contractors. Isemoto Contracting Co. Ltd. will be responsible for expanding refrigeration capacity and installing a new dry chill box to age grass fed beef before it is marketed. Ludwig Construction will install wastewater improvements including a new septic system and improvements to enable the recycling of wash water to irrigate surrounding pastures. Site Engineering will make repairs to the rendering plant and install equipment that turns inedible waste into compost material and animal fat for processing into biofuels.
The rendering plant work and the wastewater system will take 9 months to complete. The refrigeration improvements will begin after the holidays to reduce impact on slaughterhouse use and is scheduled for completion by the summer.
The Pa’auilo Slaughterhouse is owned by the State of Hawai’i and leased to Hawai’i Beef Producers, a partnership between David DeLuz Sr. and a group of ranchers. It is one of two USDA certified slaughterhouses on Hawai‘i Island, where over 75% of all the state’s cattle are raised.
According to the County’s recently released Food Self Sufficiency Baseline study, only about 17% of the beef eaten on Hawai’i Island is locally produced, in spite of the fact that the cattle industry produces nearly twice the number of cattle annually that the island consumes. Since the early 1990’s the cost of grain imports has made it too expensive for local ranchers to finish cattle locally. As a result, the bulk of the cattle industry ships young cattle to the mainland to be grown to market size and harvested there. Local slaughter capacity has fallen dramatically in the last 20 years and needs to be revitalized before a strong local grass fed industry can re-emerge.
The cattle industry has gone through its challenges, and it continues to face challenges,” said Randy Kurohara, director of the County’s Department of Research & Development. “But this slaughterhouse and rendering facility really represents a milestone in the advancement of our grass-fed beef industry here. Increasing our capacity to produce locally-raised beef is very important to our island’s self-reliance.”
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