Steering Kaua’i Toward Sustainability

Duane Shimogawa Sr. is keeping the paniolo way of life alive on Kaua‘i

This Kaua’i cowboy is heavily involved in the Garden Island Food and Range Festival, and in eating local

In an industry where quantity is touted over quality, cattle ranchers like Duane Shimogawa are few and far between.

“We really need to get back to being more sustainable,” he says with sincerity one morning at his A’akukui Ranch, with the Haupu mountain range standing against blue skies in the background. “It’s something that a producer has to strive for.”

Not only are his 500 cattle locally raised on 1,500 acres of leased Grove Farm land in Lihu’e, they are exclusively grass-fed without any hormones or antibiotics.

“Cattle are not meant to be crowded into pens and given chemical stimulants and chemical rations to artificially make them grow,” he says. “Grass-fed beef is one of the most nutritious, healthy beef products that can be produced.”

Commercial feedlots are very efficient operations, but at times can be too efficient. “It’s a cow factory,” he says, “and it’s not natural.”

While feedlot animals are often slaughtered as early as 14 to 15 months of age, cattle at A’akukui are killed at 20 to 24 months because they are not chemically induced to put on additional weight, Shimogawa says.

Shimogawa grazes his 500 cattle on 1,500 acres leased from Grove Farm

Moreover, 80 percent of the cattle never set foot on a ship, and their meat is sold at various markets and restaurants across Kaua’i.

“Our program keeps all of the money here in the local economy,” he says.

It is a concept that has yet to gain foothold on the island, as around 70 percent of all cattle are shipped out of state, and almost 95 percent of the beef consumed on Kaua’i is imported, according to Shimogawa.

“It comes in a box and it can come from anywhere: East Coast to West Coast and some as far as Australia and New Zealand,” says Shimogawa, whose grandparents were the first generation to arrive on Kaua`i from Japan – his late grandfather worked at McBride Plantation.

All but 20 percent of Shimogawa’s cattle are brought to Andrade’s Slaughterhouse in Lawai. The meat-processing facility is only one of two small, family-run slaughterhouses on Kaua’i (the other is Sanchez’s, located at Wailua Homesteads).

“We don’t have a modernized slaughter processing facility,” says Shimogawa of why more cattle do not stay on-island. “Everything is really old.”

The county is currently working closely with Kaua’i Cattlemen’s Association and is looking at ways to expand and enhance the industry on the island.

“Over the last two years, we spent $60,000 on improvements to two slaughterhouses on the island in order to maintain their United States Department of Agriculture certification,” says Office of Economic Development director George Costa.

The ultimate goal, however, is to have “most of our beef consumed here locally, rather than being shipped off to the Mainland,” Shimogawa says.

Duane and Anne Shimogawa -- A‘akukui Ranch is a family operation

“In addition to government support, everyone else will have to do their part in order for the cattle industry to flourish on Kaua’i,” Costa adds. “Retailers, restaurants, hotels and the general public will have to buy local beef, and a strong marketing campaign is also necessary.”

Even though some of Shimogawa’s cattle are currently shipped off-island – something he aims to decrease in the coming years – they are all sent to Country Natural Beef in Oregon, which has a business philosophy in line with his.

Calves are shipped at 6 months old in “cowtainers,” and are well cared for on their six-day journey across the ocean. When they reach their destination, they are allowed to graze in grass pastures until they hit 800 pounds, at which point they are placed in a feed-lot and provided an all-natural, vegetarian diet until they are slaughtered. Their meat is then marketed at Whole Foods on the West Coast.

“We picked them (Country Natural Beef) because it fits our program of a natural beef producer,” says Shimogawa, who recently retired from managing Kipu Ranch, where he worked since 1974.

For about 15 years until the mid-1990s, Shimogawa had his cattle on smaller parcels of leased land around Kaua’i. Before he got his start in the meat industry, however, Shimogawa joined the military after graduating from Kaua’i High School, and worked for three years at the Barking Sands Fire Department.

Born in Chicago and raised on Kaua’i, where his family returned when he was 1 year old, Shimogawa discovered the tools of his trade through his father, Ken “Stup” Shimogawa, who was a butcher and once ran the custom processing room at Andrade’s Slaughterhouse. He also was known for his nearly four decades of being a football official for Kaua’i Interscholastic Federation, Pop Warner and “you name it,” his son says.

His father still works in the beef industry by assisting Shimogawa at the ranch. Even his mother, Mary, helps out by cooking meals for employees – all of whom are either part of the family or close friends.

The festival offers mouth-watering foods

“This is a real family operation,” he says of the ranch that has been in Lihu’e since 1996.

Shimogawa and wife Anne live in Kipu and have two children, one of whom, Duane, is a reporter for KGMB and KHNL, as well as a contributing sports columnist for MidWeek Kaua’i, and daughter Shantelle Manibog, who is a teacher at Island School, married to Eugemar Manibog and mother of 6-year-old Cody and a 1-anda-half-year-old Sydney.

“Working outdoors was always a dream of mine, and working with animals is very satisfying,” Shimogawa says. “It’s nice seeing your labor come to fruition.”

Residents and visitors will be able to catch a glimpse of the fruits – or in this case the meats – of his labor at the second annual Garden Island Range and Food Festival.

It is Kaua’i’s first official locavore (defined as an individual who consumes food produced within a 100-mile radius of home) event, where all dishes served are created from on-island products.

Shimogawa, who helped launch the festival and serves as range chairman of the locavore pa’ina, will supply various cuts of meat from his ranch, including “lower-end” pieces like beef heart and tongue.

“We try to have the chefs be very creative about doing different types of dishes and not just throwing a steak on a grill,” he says. “It’s kind of fashioned after the Iron Chef show, where they are given a particular piece of protein and they are asked to create a particular dish.”

It is Shimogawa’s hope that more chefs will begin utilizing different cuts to create a more value-added product: “Putting more value on lower-end cuts instead of just making them into hamburger.”

Also featured at the festival will be dishes created with locally raised pork, lamb and goat, along with a vegetarian station offering plates filled with island produce.

“An event like this brings together the chefs and the farmers and ranchers,” Shimogawa says. “They get to meet each other and know what kind of products they have, and it puts both sides in touch with each other.”

The festival is Nov. 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Kilohana Luau Pavilion.

“I can think of no better way to spend your Sunday,” Shimogawa says.

Meat from A’akukui Ranch is currently sold at Ishihara Market in Waimea, Kukuiula Store and Living Foods Market and Café in Poipu, and the Sueoka Store in Koloa. The meat also is featured in dishes at the Sheraton Kaua’i Resort, Merriman’s and Josselin’s Tapas Bar and Grill in Poipu, Roy’s Poipu Bar and Grill, 22 Degrees North in Lihu’e, and the Kaua’i Marriott Resort and Oasis at the Waipouli Beach Resort in Kapa’a.

Second Annual Garden Island Food and Range Festival

11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 14 at Kilohana Luau Pavilion

11 a.m.: Opening: Pule and blessing by Kumu Kehau Kekua

11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Food served at 12 different stations; hotel and restaurant creations by Kaua’i chefs, range and farmer display stations, all locally grown products, and beverages and desserts.

Noon: Kaua’i County Proclamation by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. honoring Garden Island Range and Food Festival chairs and committee.

Noon to 2 p.m.: Makahiki Games. Keiki are invited to participate in these cultural and historical games.

11 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Entertainment by MC Will Lydgate, Zabby Zablan and Garrett Santos and Yes Men.

Tickets cost $35; half price for children; free for keiki under age 5 and can be purchased at the door or at various ticket outlets on Kaua’i. Call 634-5352 or 338-0111 for more information. All proceeds are used to help fund one lucky Kaua’i Community College culinary student’s education.

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