Ulupono Initiative

Ranch-to-Plate Joint Venture

A collaborative project aimed at helping to revitalize the Big Island grass-fed beef industry.

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From 2009 to 2011, Ulupono facilitated meetings and strategy sessions among the Hawaii Beef Producers processing facility management and the Big Island ranching community.

The goals of the Ranch-to-Plate project were to increase the supply of Big Island grass-fed beef for the entire state by helping to grow the grass-fed cattle industry by working with experienced ranchers and industry officials. Ranchers are committing 3,000 cattle to the new program, most in long-term 10-year supply agreements.

When ranchers collaborated and worked with beef producers, they were able to agree on a standard for grass-fed cattle and share best practices for raising high-quality grass-fed cattle. The supply agreements also reduced the risk of price volatility associated with shipping or flying cattle to the Continental U.S. 

The collaboration helped to support upgrading of aging infrastructure, assisted by the release of $4.15 million by the State of Hawaii, via Hawaii County, for the Paauilo processing facility. The rendering plant will be rebuilt, allowing for more efficient use of waste products as resources that can be recycled and better used.

The venture also worked to develop a program to market Big Island grass-fed beef and renovate and expand the existing processing facilities to make them more humane and more economically efficient.

By helping to build trust between large and small ranchers and the processor, the effort helped align the Big Island beef industry, and catalyze a shift across the ranching community to greater dedication of the herd towards grass-fed beef for the local market. The venture conducted rigorous financial analysis to ensure all stakeholders could obtain fair prices and profit with an aligned supply agreement.

Why We Invested

The Ulupono Initiative invests in organizations and companies working toward more sustainable food, energy, and waste systems in Hawaii.  The Ranch-to-Plate Joint Venture offered an opportunity for an impact in food and waste.


  • Increase Hawaii’s food independence by growing and keeping more cattle here (versus shipping to the Continental U.S.)
  • Partner with respected ranching and business leaders
  • Improved processing expected to result in the waste byproduct tallow being sold to a local biodiesel plant to turn waste into energy resource
  • A public-private partnership will allow more processing in an environmentally sound, humane, and food safe manner
  • More humane treatment: facility passed its USDA food safety and humane treatment audit in early 2011; and all ranchers signed onto the humane treatment guidelines
  • A healthier balance sheet for Hawaii-based business by shifting existing debt to equity ownership

At a Glance

Investment Area
Food, Waste
Financial Model
Total Investment

$192,444 in collaboration support costs

2011: $35,695
2010: $156,749


Hawaii Beef Producers
Kahua Ranch
KK Ranch
Kuahiwi Ranch
Palani Ranch
Parker Ranch
Ponoholo Ranch
Paniolo Cattle Company