HONOLULU — Kunoa cattle company recently partnered with Times Supermarket to expand its operations across the Hawaiian Islands.
Kunoa, which runs 2,000 head of cattle on 4,000 acres on Kauai and Oahu, announced its largest partnership to date with a Hawaii grocer in May, offering 100 percent Hawaii-grown ground beef at all 15 Times Supermarkets locations on Oahu and Maui.
Kunoa’s meat bars, a product similar to beef jerky, will also be available at select Times stores on Oahu.
“This represents a great change in the chapter of ranching on Kauai and all islands,” said Bobby Farias, Kunoa co-founder and third-generation Hawaiian rancher. “There is a new opportunity to keep our cattle here, and have high-quality meat that is raised, sold and consumed locally. That has a major impact on our economy, with those dollars staying right here in Hawaii.”
Stocking shelves with locally generated products is also a priority for Times Supermarkets, said Chester Gumban, director of meat operations for the grocer.
“As a longtime Hawaii grocer, Times Supermarkets is committed to supporting local products like Kunoa’s ground beef and meat bars, which offer great quality at a reasonable price,” Gumban said.
Founded in 2014, Kunoa ranches several thousand acres of former sugarcane land on Kauai’s Eastside. A diet rich in local grasses, shrubs, sedges and legumes minimizes the reliance on imported feed and helps shape the robust beef flavor.
The company works with other producers throughout the state to source no-added hormone, antibiotic-free beef. Kunoa recently debuted its products at smaller neighborhood markets on Kauai and Oahu and plans to add more locations in the near future.
After receiving a $300,000 investment from a Hawaiian venture capital fund, the cattle company purchased Oahu’s only USDA-inspected livestock harvest facility in November 2016 with the goal of expanding processing capabilities for island livestock producers. Kunoa is now completing more than $650,000 in major upgrades to the nearly seven-acre Kapolei processing plant to enhance animal welfare, preserve meat quality and improve food safety.
“Kunoa’s high-quality meats and new processing capabilities help tackle the pressing issue of food security across the islands,” said Farias, a descendant of Kauai’s sugar cane plantation workers.
Improvements include new animal receiving and holding areas, plus a $50,000 hydraulic animal chute with design features developed by Temple Grandin, an animal-welfare expert and Colorado State University professor.
Other upgrades include a grinder, mixer, patty maker and state-of-the-art, vacuum-packaging machine that will allow the facility to deliver products ranging from beef sides to retail steaks. The facility will bring new processing capabilities for Kunoa livestock, as well as other producers throughout the state selling under their own brands.
“Our facility improvements allow more ranchers to sell their meats in Hawaii, rather than sending them to the Mainland, and that goes a long way for our state,” said Farias.
Selected by the nonprofit Savory Institute as a “Savory Hub” candidate in 2017 for promotion of holistic land management in Hawaii, Kunoa — meaning “stand free” — aims to promote a secure future for food through its focus on healthy communities, animals and lands.
“Our communities are what drive our local food availability,” said Farias, “so it is important to let grocers know that we prefer to buy local products.”