Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Adventures in a Raw Pet Food Co-op

Wes's experience with his first order of raw-meaty-bones reminds me of all the vagaries I encountered when Kona Raw Pet Food Co-op began.

Wes started Oahu Raw, our counterpart on the main Hawaiian island, with heavily populated Honolulu as its center.  He looked all over Oahu for a local beef producer that could provide grass-fed beef, raised without hormones and antibiotics.  He found NONE.  The last ranch on Oahu is going out of business this month, another victim of high land prices.  All the beef on Oahu will come either from mainland feedlots (loaded with growth hormones and antibiotics) or from the Big Island or Maui, which still have grass-fed beef operations.

Cattle ranches are not the only local meat producers that are threatened with extinction.  Hawaii Island had three chicken farms as recently as 5 years ago.  Now we have NONE, because the price of chicken feed, imported from the mainland, made local chicken farms uncompetitive with mainland chicken factories.  Tyson and Perdue can buy taxpayer-subsidized feed and crowd birds into darkened coops to become marketable in 6 to 8 weeks. These pathetic birds are genetically selected to have big breasts and are almost unable to stand or walk.  They are fed antibiotics and growth hormones to hasten their growth to market weight.

Free-range chickens, raised in more natural environments without growth hormones and antibiotics, take much longer to reach marketable weights, and they cost far more to raise.  Until consumers are willing to pay twice or three times more for free-range chickens, mass producers of poisoned birds will dominate the chicken market.  Evidently, Hawaii does not have enough discriminating consumers to keep local chicken farms in business.  For pets, most owners take a deep breath and feed factory-raised chickens, because they can't afford to make a healthier choice.

Pork?  Forget it.  There are no pig farms left in Hawaii.  Pork factory-farms on the mainland are notorious for producing methane-gas and enormous quantities of aquifer-threatening waste.  Although other countries have developed less offensive pig-farming methods, the cost of humane, healthy farming techniques makes healthy pork uncompetitive with factory-farmed meat -- a familiar and depressing story.

Unable to find any local source of grass-fed beef or healthy-raised chickens, Wes placed his first order with Hawaii Beef Producers, which processes local grass-fed beef and can supply mainland chickens, pork, and other meats.  His first order arrived by barge from Hawaii Island yesterday.  He picked up 6 large brown cartons with about 200 pounds of frozen meats and meaty bones.

First question is what is it?  Meats came packaged in 5- to 15-pound plastic pouches, many of which look alike.  With frozen meat, it's difficult to tell what's in the package.  Is is cheek meat, skirt meat, liver, what?  He could identify chickens, beef tracheas, ribs, hearts, and neck bones, but what was in the other dozen frozen blocks?

Second question is how to divide frozen 10-pound packages into individual orders for 1- 2-, or 4-pounds?  Thawing large packages of frozen meat is not a simple or quick process.  I put some frozen packages in the sink in cold water to hasten thawing.  I have not used a microwave yet to thaw meats, but that's another option.  In any case, it is far easier to fill smaller orders with chilled than frozen meats.

Third question is how to store all that meat he cannot distribute immediately.  Wes bought a chest freezer for his own Great Danes that is large enough to hold his first order.  Simply putting all the large packages of frozen meats in his own freezer, however, does not address how to divide and fill members' orders.

It takes some mental adjustments and creative thinking to figure out how to organize and run a raw-meaty-bones co-op.  Wes plans to ask HBP to send chilled, rather than frozen, meats and maybe to label packages.  That will be a good start toward resolving some of the issues.

Raw-meaty-bones are becoming so popular at Kona Raw, and prospectively much more popular at Oahu Raw, we may outstrip the local beef supply.  On several occasions, Hawaii Beef Producers has had to delay delivery of beef hearts and kidneys, which are very popular pet-food items, because they simply did not slaughter enough cattle to meet Kona Raw's demand.  Mature beef cattle have only one heart and two kidneys, amidst a thousand pounds of other meats and organs. We need to expand members' preferences for parts of the cow.  Some members order spleens and lungs.  My dogs like tracheas (again, there's only one per cow).  I need to explore again what parts of the cow the USDA inspector will approve for sale as pet food.

Pet owners provide a new market for Hawaii Beef Producers.   Before Kona Raw, HBP had to pay fees to put meats that pets eat into the landfill.  HBP is thrilled and amazed at the growth and potential of the pet-food market.  The other, smaller meat packer on this island, Kaumana, claims they sell all their pet food to Hilo customers, who come to their plant to pick up their orders.  I have to conclude that far more pet owners are quietly feeding their pets raw-meaty-bones than anyone suspects.

Is something like this happening in other communities around the world?   Are pet owners wising up to the commercial pet-food fraud and voting with their pocketbooks to switch to raw-meaty-bones?  It would be great to know.


  1. This article made me remind of the past. I had once used raw foods to feed my pet dog since I am new to having pets, but after I researched and studied about owning a dog, I stopped using raw foods and used commercial products as dog treats instead.

    Fast forward a few months, I am now accustomed in taking care of my pet dog. Treating him well was one of the things I have made into fruition, and he protects and follows me wherever I go.

  2. Nice post. Ideal pet food can play a vital role to protect your pet health. Our pet food is prepared from the best ingredient.