Lanai Venison Back on the Menu

Hawaii, Lanai, U.S.A.

Axis deer were introduced to Hawaii as a gift to King Kamehameha in the 1850s, and since the early 1920s have flourished on Lanai, thriving in the grasslands and forested regions of the island’s upper plateau. Hunting has kept Lanai’s deer population in check, but federal restrictions have limited the sale and purchase of Lanai venison in commercial settings.  The last inspected venison available on Lanai was in 2007.

The recent arrival of Lanai’s first Mobile Processing Unit (MPU), a compact meat processing facility, now allows for locally-sourced venison to be sold in stores and in restaurants.  The facility provides an approved environment for processing venison under the careful supervision of a USDA-certified inspector (qualifications including being a veterinarian) who confirms the integrity of the product.

It’s difficult to determine the exact population count due to the island’s dense vegetation, but bringing venison to market underscores sustainability goals on the island and contributes to population management as there are no natural predators on Lanai and varying land conditions affect the ability of the herds to live comfortably with existing water and food resources.

Chef Kemar Durfield at Four Seasons Resort Lanai is excited to showcase the new ingredient on various menus at the Resort.  Currently guests can sample a venison pizza at the Sports Bar made with house made sausage, hamakua mushroom, house marinara and mozzarella.  Or at ONE FORTY, Lanai venison is served with roasted tomato polenta cake, arugula, shaved parmesan and a sherry veal reduction.

Says Durfield, “We have access to delicious seafood right off our shores and it’s truly a gift as a chef to be able to source 100 percent organic meat harvested right on island.  Their diet is reflected in the super clean and pleasant flavour that is not at all overpowering or gamey.  The flavour compliments most ingredients it’s paired with, making this product excellent and unlike any other product of its kind."

Look to future menus for a venison kabob with pomegranate gastrique served with coconut and ginger rice pilaf, or a venison burger served with local greens, heirloom tomatoes and the local Surfing goat cheese.