Tribe and its businesses open USDA-certified meat processing facility
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation leadership and executives from Cherokee Nation Businesses joined federal and state officials, as well as local community leaders, farmers and ranchers in celebrating the opening of 1839 Cherokee Meat Co. on Tuesday.
The tribe commemorated the opening of its USDA and state-certified meat processing plant with a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony followed by tours of the facility.
“As the Cherokee people navigated through the pandemic, we learned valuable lessons about food security and food sovereignty,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “By addressing the shortage of meat processing capacity with our own facility, we support local agriculture and locally sourced food all for the benefit of Cherokee citizens and the region’s economy.”
1839 Cherokee Meat Co. was created after Chief Hoskin, Deputy Chief Warner and the Council of the Cherokee Nation called for its construction as a means of growing economic development through agricultural programs, while directly addressing food security for generations of Cherokee citizens through sustainable and locally sourced meat.
The 12,000-square-foot meat processing facility, which is located off Highway 51 in a repurposed tribal property in Tahlequah, is operated by the tribe’s business arm.
“Cherokee Nation Businesses is well known for driving economic and community development while operating industry-leading brands in hospitality, federal contracting and the film industry, as well as cultural preservation and tourism,” said Molly Jarvis, senior vice president at CNB. “As a company, we hold ourselves to the highest of standards, and I believe all Cherokees can be proud of what we have and will produce here.”
The meat processing plant is expected to grow in phases. It will eventually use surplus animals from Cherokee Nation’s bison herd, which was established in 2014, to provide for Cherokees. Establishing a local farm-to-table operation featuring lean bison meat, once Cherokee Nation’s bison operation reaches sustainability, has remained a longtime goal for the tribe’s herd.
To mitigate the long-term damage of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cherokee Nation launched the COVID-19 Respond, Recover and Rebuild relief plan and spent $27 million to address food security, including the construction of the meat processing facility, five new food distribution centers and additional refrigerated trucks.
“I am so proud that during a difficult public health crisis Cherokee Nation business and government leaders could come together to not only address immediate challenges, but also make long term investments like the new 1839 Cherokee Meat Company,” said Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner.
Named in commemoration of the year Cherokee Nation became united by constitution, 1839 Cherokee Meat Co.’s mission is to provide a safe and clean operation promoting food security for generations of Cherokee citizens, ranchers and communities.