TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Recently wrapping up its first year of operations, 1839 Cherokee Meat Co. surpassed initial goals for the business and continues to play a vital role in the tribe’s efforts to promote food sovereignty within the Cherokee Nation Reservation.
The USDA and state-certified meat processing plant opened in late October 2022 with support from Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and the Council of the Cherokee Nation. The 12,000-square-foot facility, located off Highway 51 between Tahlequah and Hulbert, celebrated many achievements in the effort to advance food sovereignty for the tribe.
Those achievements stem from the company’s commitment to provide a safe and clean operation that benefits Cherokee citizens, ranchers and communities.
"Ensuring food sovereignty and access to good, nutritious protein is key to the long-term health of the Cherokee people,” said Chief Hoskin. “Cherokee Nation has a growing role locally in the agriculture industry, and the 1839 meat plant facility is creating new and sustainable economic opportunities within the Cherokee Nation Reservation.”
Through its retail storefront, 1839 offers locally sourced and competitively priced protein to tribal citizens and community members alike. In addition to beef, pork and chicken, specialty products include mango habanero sausage, hatch green chile hamburger patties, bacon-wrapped filets and bison, when available.
The company offers discounts for citizens, veterans and employees of Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses and became a SNAP certified retailer in March 2023. To date, SNAP recipients have purchased nearly $20,000 in product.
Operated by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, SNAP is the most far-reaching, powerful tool available to ensure that all Americans can afford healthy food. The program issues electronic benefits that can be used like cash to purchase food and helps to feed more than 42 million Americans – one in eight – each month. Last year, more than 408,000 Oklahoma families received SNAP benefits.
1839 also helped deepen the tribe’s relationship with the USDA, resulting in two new large-scale grants worth more than $10 million. The grants support Cherokee Nation’s food outreach programs and growing demand at nutrition sites throughout the reservation.
“We’ve worked hard to position Cherokee Nation at the forefront of food sovereignty efforts, and thanks to our relationship with the USDA, we’re able to exercise that sovereignty in new and exciting ways,” said Adrian Sinclair, manager of 1839 Cherokee Meat Co. “These grants are vital in our ability to deliver a quality protein within the Cherokee Nation, and we take great pride in helping put food on the tables of our friends, families and neighbors.”
The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations grant provides more than 91,000 pounds of ground beef and 21,600 pounds of beef roast on an alternating six-month schedule for three years.
The Local Food Purchase Assistance grant brings vital protein and nutritional assistance directly to at-risk citizens in need in the form of kits. Thousands of kits will be distributed each month, supported by nearly 29,000 pounds of ground beef and more than 34,000 pounds of pork product every month for two years.
One of 1839’s primary goals is to grow economic development through agricultural programs and help farmers and ranchers by purchasing quality livestock and processing it for the Cherokee people.
Since opening, 1839 has processed hundreds of cattle and various other animals, including bison, elk, lamb, pork and deer.
Custom processing exceeded expectations this deer season, reaching capacity just ahead of rifle season. All orders were fulfilled with a turnaround time of about a week. Custom processing for cattle remains steady and the facility schedules those orders by appointment.
Operations at 1839 Cherokee Meat Co. is supported by a staff of 11 with 91% being Cherokee Nation citizens.
The site has passed vigorous USDA inspections from the initial implementation to the permanent grant of inspection for full licensing and operations. That inspection took place in early 2023 with the company receiving zero infractions. In addition, a September food-safety inspection revealed zero infractions, a testament to the staff, facility and tribe’s commitment to quality and safety.
Between its retail operations, grant work, and custom processing, 1839 achieved incredible growth and continues to find new ways to enhance its services for customers. Beginning now, and as supplies last, customers can reserve smoked turkeys and spiral cut hams for holiday celebrations or try out the newly introduced beef snack sticks for protein on the go.
In 1839, Cherokee Nation united under its constitution and that heritage is reflected in the name, 1839 Cherokee Meat Co. Its mission is to provide a safe and clean operation promoting food security for generations of Cherokee citizens, ranchers and communities. 1839 is located at 18919 N. 466 Road in Tahlequah and is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Saturday, Sunday and Christmas Day.
For more information, please visit www.1839CherokeeMeatCo.com or call 918-207-3688.