A few months ago, I asked for recs on where to find grass fed beef on the Big Island.
As many all noted, Hawaiian grass fed beef is available at pretty much large supermarket on the island and it is definitely worth searching out. Leaner and redder than the Midwestern cornfed beef, Hawaii's tender grass fed flavor is every bit as good, albeit very different.
After talking to a few friends, I learned that despite the massive size of the Big Island’s cattle ranches there are only two commercial beef processors on the island, one in Hilo and the other in Paauilo on the Hamakua Coast.
The Mattos family, which owns the Paauilo based Hawaii Beef Producers also owns JJ's Country Market in Honokaa. They turn out everything from ground beef to custom cuts -- full tenderloin strips, New York strips, ribeyes, flat irons and more. Ninety-nine percent of the meat they process comes from grass-fed cattle grown antibiotic and hormone free on the Island.
According to the local newspaper West Hawaii Today, Hawaii Beef Producers is "setup to handle primarily large 'market' animals (steers and heifers under 30 months of age that produce the top quality prime cuts)," but they do process a limited amount of grass fed Hawaiian lamb which is sold exclusively through JJ’s (hint hint, if you are looking to buy lamb on the island). In addition to large scale processing, Mattos told the paper that they provide custom processing for individual customers who bring in one cow or one lamb with a specific list of cuts they want.
For the retail consumer, JJ’s doesn’t offer much visually. It looks more like a corner liquor store than a top-notch butcher (there is no meat counter to speak of). But it does offer high quality grass fed beef to order. Just pick up the phone, tell them what you want and when you will be by to pick it up and they will have it ready for you.
The beef is cheap too. My 25 pounds of thick English-style short ribs cost little more than $30. And because the family controls the processor and the retail operation, there really isn’t any cut you can’t order. Considering the attention that modern butcher shops like New York’s Fleisher’s Meats (in the Hudson River Valley) and Dickson’s Meats (in NYC’s Chelsea Market) or roving San Francisco butcher Ryan Farr are getting for tackling whole animals, you realize the quality you are getting at JJ's knowing the Mattos family has been handling whole hormone free animals for over 100 years.
For more info and photos, click here: