By Andrew Gomes
Kyle Datta, general partner of a company called Ulupono Initiative, is investing in ways to improve Hawaii’s local food supply. He said in testimony on the dairy bond bills that building another milk processing plant here will help existing dairies survive and possibly help attract new dairy enterprises.
Ulupono explored buying Cloverleaf Dairy last year but didn’t proceed with a purchase. The company also has plans to help establish a dairy on Kauai.
“With only one other milk processor in the state, Big Island Dairy could provide market competition, while making the largest Hawaii dairy more efficient and profitable,” Datta said in written testimony. “This is a key first step to help Hawaii secure its remaining dairies and redevelop its local dairy industry.”
Datta said there were six milk processing plants operating in Hawaii in 1999. Today Meadow Gold operates processing plants in Honolulu and Hilo, he said.
Datta also said that imported milk, which is used in the state’s public school lunch program, isn’t as fresh as local milk. He said more than half the milk sold in Hawaii is over a week old before it reaches store shelves and that a 2006 University of Hawaii study found that 90 percent of milk imported to Hawaii had bacteria levels above federal Food and Drug Administration standards five days before a carton’s “sell-by” date, producing a sour or spoiled taste to most milk earlier than consumers expect.