When Hawaii Had Cowboys
Makahālau Station sits at some 3,500 feet elevation on the northern peninsula of Hawaii’s Big Island. It's the original site also for Parker Ranch, what used to be largest cattle ranch under individual ownership in the United States. At its peak, Parker herds wandered some 500,000 acres under the care of Hawaii’s cowboys, the paniolos. Together they left their mark on the physical landscape of Hawaii, as well as the culture and cuisine.
Now the same forces of globalization that created the paniolo lifestyle are slowly eroding it, bringing questions about sustainability and food sovereignty on the islands. Over the past 20 years, it’s become more profitable to ship grass-fed Hawaiian calves 2,500 miles to the mainland, fatten them with grain in feedlots, slaughter and package them there, and then ship them back to
Hawaii, rather than simply to raise cattle on the wide-open grasslands. In the face of high shipping costs and a public that prefers the fatty flavors of grain-fed beef, many ranches have downsized, Parker Ranch included.
Read the full story about Parker Ranch in Hawaii, founded in 1847, in Roads and Kingdoms.