Last Big Island egg farm closing
The hunt for fresh eggs is about to get a lot tougher for Big Island customers.
Hawaiian Fresh Egg Farm LLC near Kamuela is closing its doors at the end of this year, which leaves four egg producers in the state, all on Oahu. It follows Maui Fresh Eggs, which closed in March due to the higher costs of safety grading and feed.
Hawaiian Fresh owner David M. Davenport said he is leaving the business he started after 21 years to run Organa Grow, a composting business.
"I've been in the poultry business all of these years -- October made half of my life," he said. "I've wanted out for many years, I finally felt that I had an OK to pursue what's in my heart."
Davenport, who has one-full time and two part-time employees, has scaled back the number of chickens on his 13-acre farm to 25,000 from a near-peak 45,000 a year ago. He plans to fully close operations by the end of the year.
Hawaiian Fresh currently produces 360 cases of eggs a week, most of which it sells to KTA Super Stores, which has six grocery stores on the Big Island. Derek Kurisu, executive vice president of KTA's perishable department, said he is looking for other suppliers to fill the high demand for local eggs.
Hawaiian Fresh eggs, which also sell under KTA's Mountain Apple brand, made up 70 percent of egg sales at the stores two years ago, Kurisu said. Now they account for only a quarter of all eggs sold, with mainland shipments making up the rest.
"If there's any way I can keep the local eggs going, I'm willing to support it," Kurisu said. "Customers don't want mainland eggs."
High feed and shipping prices will continue to push up the price of both Oahu and mainland eggs, Kurisu said.
"I feel sorry for the customer," he said. "There's no competition to the mainland product now. Local eggs are a value-added product. People are willing to pay more because it's local and it's fresher."
The farms left on Oahu are the Mikilua Poultry Farm, which supplies the Ka Lei Eggs brand; Peterson's Upland Farm in Wahiawa; KK Poultry in Waimanalo; and Maili Moa, a small farm in Waianae.
The number of eggs produced in Hawaii last year through November was 74.4 million, compared with 89.5 million a year ago, according to the State Department of Agriculture.