Maui Cattle Company History
Islanders used to savor Hawaiian beef from Hawaiian cattle that had grazed unhurriedly on family-owned ranch lands. They knew the ranchers by name. It was all a part of a self-sustaining island lifestyle.
The 20th century brought change. Today, about 75% of island cattle are shipped to the mainland, while islanders consumer imported USA beef. We realized this made no sense and in 2002, Maui Cattle Company was created with the knowledge that the distance between plate and pasture must be shortened, locally-grown food tastes better and locally-grown products are vital to our island economy. Our goal is to keep island livestock in the islands, establish a sustainable ranching industry and deliver premium products locally.
Maui Ranching History
A gift to King Kamehameha by Captain George Vancouver, a few head of longhorn cattle took the islands’ fertile volcanic slopes in 1793. Few knew that the animals would thrive there. By the early 1820s, entire bullock herds roamed Maui, destroying forests, gardens and farms.
Eventually, the herds were corralled into the famed and daring ranching industry that defines Maui to this day. At first, fearless adventurers from overseas drove the animals into improvised ranches, processing them for trade as salted, dried beef.
In 1832, Kamehameha III invited skilled Spanish-Mexican vaqueros to help with capturing and slaughtering. The men, who were expert horseback riders, also set to taming wild horses which had arrived in 1803. The vaqueros taught the Hawaiians how to ride, the use of bridle and lariat, which gave rise to the paniolo, or Hawaiian cowboy, in whose generous heart Hawaiian and Spanish-Mexican traditions blend.
Large ranches developed toward the end of the 19th century never far from homesteads where the paniolo and their families lived. When a Maui paniolo, Ikua Purdy, won the world steer-roping championship at the Cheyenne Frontier Days celebration in Wyoming in 1908, Maui ranching took on a new cache.
Ranching would become Maui’s third largest industry after sugar and pineapples. From 1893 until 1927, close to 1,600 brands were registered, representing operations throughout the island spanning from just a few acres to thousands-of-acres spreads.
During the 1900s, economic challenges threatened the ranching industry on Hawai‘i, including Maui. The islands began importing cheap, fat-marbled meat. A new awareness in the 1990s concerning the vital importance of island agriculture and the quality of island-grazed meats helped the industry survive.
Today, ranching proudly takes its place once again as an integral part of Hawaiian culture and Maui’s agricultural economy, bringing island beef to island families, keeping a legacy alive, and keeping Maui green.