WAILUKU, Hawai’i (KHON2) — Maui venison will soon be available in stores according to Maui County Councilmember Yuki Lei Sugimura. She said efforts to manage the axis deer population in Maui county are working, and their plans to use the meat to feed the community and create economic opportunities are moving in the right direction.
Tired of chicken, beef and pork? Local residents could soon find wild Maui venison in their local grocery store.
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“The big announcement was that it’s going to be sold in Foodland here on Maui,” said Sugimura, who also helped form the Maui Axis Deer Task force last year. “That was always a goal for the task force to use and have some kind of economic benefit from all this deer that is running wild on Maui, Lanai and Molokai.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Foodland confirmed: “We are currently working with a local vendor to offer ground venison at our Foodland stores on Maui, soon.”
The axis deer have caused serious damage to the environment in recent years with their population exploding.
“We are making progress, small steps at a time,” Sugimura said.
She said around 10,000 axis deer were culled in the last year, out of an estimated population of 70,000 to 100 thousand. But, she said they need to cull between 20,000 to 30,000 annually to manage the problem.
Kyle Caires, an animal scientist and president of the Maui County Farm Bureau, wants that meat to go to good use.
“So we’re trying to address merchandising, donations, boost local capacity and decrease the axis deer populations.”
Caires said they are bringing three bills to the legislature with that in mind.
“The first proposal is to provide funds to develop and implement the means to increase meat processing capacity statewide.”
He said there are not enough slaughter houses–the bill would make it easier for hunters to get their deer processed.
According to Caires, the second bill would reinstate statewide meat inspection, currently only done by the USDA.
“Statewide inspection would allow for increased flexibility for both livestock harvesting and processing,” he explained.
“The third bill, which is really another exciting move, is to amend Hawaii’s Good Samaritan Law. The amendment would be to allow for meat and food donation programs to exist, to meet the needs of the homeless and hungry.”
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Caires said the legislation would be a game changer that would create a framework the state could build on to help resolve supply chain issues, create valuable economic opportunities, feed the homeless and hungry and control the axis deer population.