Hawaii County held a blessing Tuesday to start $4.15 million in renovations to a state-owned slaughterhouse on the Hamakua Coast to support the future of the Big Island's grass-fed beef industry.
Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi said Tuesday upgrading the Paauilo slaughterhouse is an important first step.
The state-funded renovations will reduce a processing backlog that makes it difficult for ranchers to bring their animals to market at the right time.
The changes will expand plant capacity by 40% and improve meat quality. They will improve the plant's refrigeration space, wastewater disposal and rendering of solid waste.
The improvements are scheduled to be finished by the Summer of 2013.
Many Big Island ranchers are being hit by persistent drought, but the slaughterhouse options have also been holding back the local beef industry.
Over three-quarters of Hawaii's cattle are raised on the island.