The purpose of this project is to find ways to increase the usage and value of non-prime cuts of fresh pork so that local swine producers can market directly to hotels and high-end restaurants. The project had three objectives:
1. Challenge established chefs and culinary students to use non-prime cuts of meat (especially pork) in new cuisine
2. Encourage consumers to experience new dishes from non-prime cuts
3. Encourage greater consumption of locally produced pork and vegetables
Local swine producers compete with mainland imports of meat, which are often priced much lower than the cost of producing a market hog locally. The alternative is for local producers to develop niche markets and to increase the use of pork beyond the traditional dining-out dishes of pork chops and sirloin. Limited use of non-prime cuts in the culinary arena leaves local producers with these surplus or undesirable cuts to compete with cheap imports from Canada.
This project, designed to educate local chefs about use of the non-prime cuts, developed a food show to feature established chefs and students in the culinary programs at the Kapiolani Community College campus in Honolulu. The cooks were given non-prime cuts of locally produced meat and vegetables to be used as the basis for the dishes to be prepared. The event was advertised via flyers, newspapers, magazines and posters with the hope of attracting 200-250 people.
The Island Flavors event, held Oct. 27, 2001, at Kapiolani Community College in Honolulu, succeeded despite heavy rain. Three hundred people attended, sampling food from 18 stations, including a wide assortment of desserts. Feedback from guests suggested they were very impressed, with a rating of 4.84 out of 5 points. Most said they would like to see the event held annually.
However, for pork producers the results were less upbeat. Responses to a simple one-page survey gauging participants’ perceptions show that pork dishes rated lowest among the meats featured. Poultry was the most popular, followed by beef and fish.
Seventy-four surveys were completed, and a summary of the responses follows:
1. Reflecting the success of promoting the event, 78.4% said this was their first visit to Kapiolani Community College.
2. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, the event scored 4.84. Only two people gave it a 3.
3. Nearly 25% said they dine out more than three times a week, 20.5% dine out three times, 26% dine out twice and nearly 29% dine out less than once a week. Most (94.8%) buy their own groceries.
4. The most common vegetable consumed is lettuce, followed by tomato, carrots and Asian long beans.
5. A third eat meat daily, 15.9% four to six times a week, 27.5% two or three times a week and 21.7% less than twice a week. Asked to list their first choice of meats, 47.8% prefer poultry, 20% prefer beef, 17.8% prefer fish and 14.4% say pork is their first choice. Second choice rankings are 31% fish, 29.3% beef, 25.8% pork and 13.8% poultry. Combined, the ranks of preference are 34.5% for poultry, 23.6% for beef, 22.9% for fish and 19% for pork.
6. All surveyed said they would buy locally – 51.3 % because of freshness, 36.6% to support the local economy, 7.5% because it tastes better, 1.3% because it’s cheaper and 1.3% because it’s more readily available.
7. When asked if they would buy locally grown pork, 93.5% said yes and 6.4% said no. Just over 75% said they would pay more for locally produced pork chops, and 24.6% said they would not. Forty-five percent said they’d pay 50 cents more per pound, 25% would pay 75 cents more and 30% said they’d pay up to a dollar more per pound.
8. Asked if more products should be grown on the Island of Oahu, 93.2% said yes, no one said no and 6.7% said maybe.
9. Asked if the could identify locally grown products, 78.1% said yes and 21.9% said no. Asked how they identified local products, 12.2% said by the “Island Fresh” label, 32.7% said by things like fresher and better tasting and 55.1% said by label.
The benefits of this project are the increased use of non-prime cuts of meat and the increased use of locally grown Asian vegetables in commercial food service and restaurants. Improved demand for locally grown products would ensure the sustainability of the local industry.
FARMER ADOPTION AND DIRECT IMPACT
The information from the project was made available to the local swine industry, which can now craft a plan to overcome the perception that pork is less desirable than chicken, beef or fish.
All of the producers who contributed meat and vegetables to the event were invited to attend, and those who did responded positively and said they would continue to support future events.
FUTURE RECOMMENDATIONS OR NEW HYPOTHESES
The project members say they would have reduced the seating in the room, allowing more space for walking and wider aisles for groups to mingle. Reducing the number tables, they contend, would reduce the hunger/greed phenomenon, where people tend to take more food than they can eat. Fewer tables would also force people to interact with each other instead of in cliques.
DISSEMINATION OF FINDINGS
Swine producers were informed of the results of the survey through an industry meeting held by the University of Hawaii swine specialist. In addition, the specialist has received a copy of the results, which will be mailed to active producers on her list.
Producers were involved through their donations of meats and vegetables, attendance at the event and as recipients of the survey results.