chapter  5
31 Pages

Cheap Meat

At one point it stretched over 202,340ha (500,000 acres). Today, that figure is down to 71,000ha (175,000 acres). Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Parker Ranch is now the fifth largest cow-calf ranch in the US. Living some 4100km (2500 miles) from mainland US, one might think Hawaiians – and the millions of tourists who visit the islands annually – eat their fill of grass-fed local beef. ‘It’s too lean and tough; we don’t actually eat the island meat.’ That’s what I was told by a waiter in Kona, a town located about an hour from the Parker Ranch. Granted, this is a bit of an overstatement. For example, I learned from Parker Ranch employees that they turn animals that don’t ‘breed up’ (produce ‘improved’ progeny) into grass-fed beef. Yet, most of the ranch’s animals – some 10 million pounds annually – are mainland bound, where they are ‘finished’ (Holt, 2009, p209), a typical fate for most of the Big Island’s beef. So there I was, seated in a restaurant just a short drive from one of the largest ranches in the US, on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, staring at a menu with cuts of beef that all came from well over 4000km away. Maybe some of the beef started just down the road at the Parker Ranch, before being shipped to the mainland to be finished off with corn, only to then return to the Big Island and the tables around me. In what possible world can a food system that does this be classified as ‘efficient’, I thought to myself? ‘Ours’, I realized, and then ordered the fish of the day.