WAIMEA, Hawaii – Parker Ranch, the largest producer of grass-fed ground beef in Hawaii, has agreed to a research trial that will study the development of a large-scale grass-fed beef operation on The Big Island, according to local media reports.

The trial is a joint venture between Parker Ranch and Honolulu-based Ulupono Initiative, a business and social investment firm that focuses on renewable energy, waste reduction and locally-grown food that was co-founded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

The trials will include 200 head of cattle on a test area of 300 acres. Testing will begin in September and run through May 2013. Parker Ranch estimates the beef program could reach 2,500 to 4,000 head per year, if the trials are successful.

“We are very focused on developing our local grass-fed beef program,” Dutch Kuyper, chief executive officer of Parker Ranch, said in a statement. “This is important on many fronts, especially to develop a strategic hedge within our business against the risk of rising energy prices in the future.

“Also, a significant increase in local production should help us build our brand even further,” he added. “This local product strategy should ensure that we have the capacity to produce high quality and consistent market cattle in Hawaii at a competitive price.”

Kyle Datta, general partner for Ulupono Initiative, said in a statement that more high-quality and affordable beef would become available as more ranchers adopt grass-fed beef production methods.

“Allocating pasture from cow-calf operations to increase grass-finished production should place Hawaii’s ranching industry on a more secure economic footing, ushering in a prosperous future that would attract reinvestment in our state’s ranches for local beef production,” he said.