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Mahi Pono acquires slaughterhouse

Investments are being made to expand capacity

Cattle graze on Mahi Pono’s Kulolio Ranch in Hamakuapoko. Mahi Pono acquired a majority position in Maui Cattle Co. and its new slaughterhouse, which began operating last month. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Mahi Pono’s acquisition of a majority position in Maui Cattle Co. also included ownership of a new slaughterhouse and U.S. Agriculture Department-certified processing facility.

Construction on the slaughterhouse began in 2019; it began operating in January after passing regulatory requirements, said Jacob Tavares, Mahi Pono livestock land development manager, on Thursday.

The 3,500-square-foot slaughterhouse is located in Puunene with 8 acres surrounding the facility for the cattle company’s composting operations and future expansion, he said.

Tavares did not disclose the cost of building the facility.

The new slaughterhouse can process a maximum of 25 head of cattle a day, Tavares said, adding that investments are being made this year to “significantly” expand capacity.

In announcing the Mahi Pono acquisition of the slaughterhouse and majority stake in Maui Cattle Co., Shan Tsutsui of Mahi Pono said his company plans to expand cold storage facilities at the slaughterhouse “allowing for more local, Maui beef.” Tsutsui is senior vice president for operations of Mahi Pono.

Tavares described how the expansion of cold storage was important for increased production. He explained that a carcass must sit in cold storage for about two weeks before being broken down into different beef products, such as steaks and hamburger.

“The reason for this essential ‘chill’ process, is for food safety and meat preservation primarily but also the positive influence that it has on meat tenderness,” he said.

So to increase production, “an increase in cold storage is required as well,” Tavares said. Currently, Maui Cattle Co. markets more than 10,000 pounds of Maui beef each week, a company news release said.

“As we look at expanding the amount of local beef in the marketplace, it will be vital that we develop the infrastructure needed to support that,” he said. “This is a major limiting factor in not only the local beef industry, but Hawaii’s agricultural industry as a whole.”

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.