Pork and poultry fall to isle market reality
I understand that "Ewa Brand Chicken" is discontinued and we cannot find any local pork. What happened to all our chickens and pork in Hawaii?
Answer: The high costs of raising poultry and hogs, combined with lower-cost competition from mainland and foreign markets, makes it difficult to find the once abundant local livestock, according to Mark Hudson, director of the Hawaii Field Office for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service (also known as Hawaii Agricultural Statistics Service).
There are still about a half million "laying hens" that produce eggs in the state. But the Medeiros farm on Kauai is the only farm in the state selling "broilers," all of which are consumed on Kauai, according to the state Department of Agriculture.
Jaren Hancock, owner of Pacific Poultry and the "Ewa Brand Chicken" label, can attest to the decline in the local poultry industry. Until last year, the company was the major distributor of locally grown chicken.
And, although the "Ewa Brand" label still exists, it's not attached to any chicken "on the shelf," he said.
Hancock's family-owned business, more than 50 years old, shut down the slaughter side of operations late last year, so there no longer is a broiler chicken industry on Oahu. That move was soon followed by the closing of the farms that supplied the chickens.
Pacific Poultry then started to bring in "fresh, white-skinned chicken, which is what local people like," Hancock said.
However, it could only secure a shipment of one container a week from the Northwest, which wasn't enough.
"When that didn't work out, we closed all our chicken operations," except for a relatively small number of frozen mainland chicken brought in for institutions, Hancock said.
The cost of shipping in feed, the high cost of doing business in Hawaii, and the fact that it just became "awfully hard to compete with (cheaper) frozen mainland chicken," all contributed to the shut-down of processing operations.
There's such a low profit margin in poultry to begin with, Hancock said, that "we decided it just didn't pencil in."
Right now, he is "retrenching and regrouping" and primarily directing efforts to marketing "Huli Huli Sauces."
As Hancock noted, Hudson also cited the need to ship in feed as a factor in the decline in locally grown chicken and pork.
Hawaii does not grow corn or other grains, which are the primary components of poultry and hog feed, Hudson said.
So, poultry feed has to be brought in from the mainland.
Meanwhile, most local hog producers feed their hogs swill, "which is basically discarded restaurant food that is recooked to temperatures acceptable to meet health standard regulations," Hudson said. "This cooked swill is then fed to hogs after cooling off."
Although the production of locally grown chicken is minimal, the egg industry continues, albeit not as strong as in the past.
The state's record high egg production was set in 1979, with 229.3 million eggs, Hudson said. The record low of 117.2 million eggs came in 2003. Last year, egg production actually climbed to 118.5 million eggs.
The number of laying hens reached a record high of 1,037,000 in 1974, while the record low was 302,000 set in 1950. The number of hens laying eggs in the state in 2004 totaled 507,000, Hudson said.
As for pork production, Hudson said the record high number of hogs and pigs on Hawaii farms -- 72,000 -- was hit in 1965. The record low was 22,000 last year. Those figures include live hog shipments from the mainland brought in for slaughter.
Only 10 percent of all the fresh slaughtered pork consumed locally is grown here, according to Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Janelle Saneishi.
Because of the high demand for fresh pork, the majority of the hogs slaughtered in Hawaii are shipped live here from the mainland, then slaughtered within a week or so of arrival, she said.
Saneishi also said that many of the hogs grown in Hawaii are not commercially slaughtered.
"They are sold live for private consumption, which brings in a substantially better price for the farmer than if it was sent to commercial slaughter," she explained.
There are no figures for chilled pork brought in from the mainland.
Q: Thank you for printing the information on who we should call to report the bougainvillea bush that's affecting the utility line on St. Louis Heights (Kokua Line, Nov. 15). But when I called Hawaiian Electric Co., I was told that the line belonged to Hawaiian Telcom. I called Hawaiian Telcom, but was told the bush was on private property, so it couldn't do anything. Can you help?
A: Again, no specific location or contact number was given in your phone message.
As Ann Nishida, spokeswoman for Hawaiian Telcom said, "When customers call to inform us of overhanging branches, the more details they can provide as to where this is and what is occurring, the better."
But, she said, it wouldn't matter if the bush was on private property.
When a call such as yours is received, a manager is sent to assess the situation and to determine if, in fact, overhanging branches may affect service, and two, to determine who owns the tree or bush.
"If it may affect service, we contact the tree's owner whether it be a resident, the state or city offices, to explain the situation and request that they trim it," Nishida said. "In some cases, the assessment may be that the growth will not cause damage, then no further action is needed."
After shopping recently at Daiei in Kailua, I loaded the groceries into my car. Driving home, I realized I had left my purse (i.e., my life) in the shopping cart. I returned to the store and asked a security officer and cashier if they had found it. They said "no," but the cashier advised me to leave my name. I returned home, devastated. But, 20 minutes later, Daiei called to say a customer had turned in my bag. I retrieved it with everything intact. I wanted to reward the honest citizen, but he or she had not left a name. I can only say "thanks" and hope that your honesty will be rewarded many times over. -- Patti Tassie
The state Department of Transportation's Windward maintenance crew was credited for picking up leftover ornaments hanging high on pine trees (Kokua Line, Nov. 28
It turns out the "mahalo" should also go out to a group of volunteers, who have been doing what they can to clean up the area for several years.
Stewart Wade said he and fellow Realtor Cecilia Christenson lead a small group of friends in cleaning up the roadway between Castle Junction and Castle Hospital about every three months. As part of that, the "Chain Gang" also removes leftover ornaments they are able to reach on the pine trees, Wade said.
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