Order through Pono Provisions for Local Pork, Goat, Lamb, Venison and Chicken
Pono Provisions’ “Hawaiian Meats CSA” offers an exciting variety of local meats, plus pork cheeks, lard and guava smoked barbacoa.
Photo: Noelle Chun
During the pandemic, many of us have signed up for produce boxes from local farms. But fewer of us have ordered a local meat box. Here’s why you should: Pono Provisions’ small Hawaiian Meats CSA ($75) offers a variety you can’t get anywhere else. It includes chicken from Puna Chicks on Big Island, smoked pork loin from Mountain View Farms in Wai‘anae, Maui Nui venison, lamb from Big Island, and pork and moringa sausage. Go all the way up to a large ($200), and you may also get goodies like pork cheeks, lard and guava-smoked barbacoa. You can also order meats a la carte, which is how I tasted my first local pork ribs.
And if you’ve missed Robert McGee’s cooking, that’s another reason to order from Pono Provisions, his latest venture. “When I stop failing, I’ll get there,” says McGee. “I have to fail a few more times.” Few other chefs in Honolulu have opened—and closed—as many businesses as McGee in the past decade, only to start again, inching closer to his goal of realizing a local meat system. But what he really wants to do is make charcuterie from local meat. He just keeps finding that the only way to do it is to go whole hog, literally.
First, there was The Whole Ox in Kakaako, beloved for McGee’s dry-aged burgers that people to this day still reminisce about. Then he opened Meatball on Kapahulu and closed it within five months, and then there was Link, where McGee sold local meat sausages at farmers markets. In 2016, he started Pono Pork, convincing David Wong of Mountain View Farms to raise more pigs, which McGee processed for restaurants. When the pandemic hit, McGee lost all his business in four days. So he created an online marketplace for all cuts of the pork, from head to foot, and even a whole pig, delivering directly to households. Pono Pork grew into Pono Provisions when he realized people wanted other meats, and he now also provides goat and lamb from Aloha Spirits of Hawai‘i, Farm and Craft Distillery in Kea‘au, Big Island, a young farm in the process of growing sugar cane, and in the meantime, raising “delicious lawn mowers,” as McGee calls the livestock.
The part he really loves is making charcuterie, soups and sausages—from those made with pork and moringa, a nod to the superfood that makes up a large portion of the pigs’ feed, to the garlic and spice lamb sausage—as well as utilizing the whole animal in charcuterie. Which is why you’ll find everything from a deboned head to smoked hocks at Pono Provisions. “I’ve been whole animal forever,” McGee says. “But supporting local proteins is not inherently easy and profitable. The system is not consistent and it’s a big pain in the ass. We have it really hard here—there are so many islands of disconnect.” But with each business—and each failure—he feels like he’s getting closer. “I support local, and I know that someday, local will support us.”