2 Oklahoma tribes to build a bison meat processing plant

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
05/19/2019 10:00 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Two Native American tribes in Oklahoma are planning to build a meat processing plant in an effort to take a more active role in bringing the nations’ bison herd to the marketplace, a tribal business official said.

Nathan Hart, business director for the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes, noted an eatery at the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum being developed in Oklahoma City could sell the meat plant’s first bison entrees.

Hart said the U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected processing plant being built in El Reno would be chiefly for bison, but the planned 150-acre site would also take in cattle and wild game, The Journal Record reported.

“When we started this, we had a smaller processing facility in mind,” Hart said. “But as we’ve stepped out and let more people know what we’re doing, the plan expanded up to 3,000 animals per year. This won't just be for our processing purposes, either. We’re in contact with a lot of other producers in western Oklahoma to fill a need for production there.”

The tribes’ farming program already has supply chains for bison meat to be sold in dozens of the region’s stores.

Its bison flock stands at roughly 400 head, mostly in Concho. Hart said his tribes’ leaders are crafting the legal framework to turn the processing plant into a business unit under a corporate holding company. A viability study will also be instituted.

The Cheyenne & Arapaho aren’t the first tribes to cultivate bison herds for internal and profitable uses. The Quapaw Cattle Co., for instance, contributes around 20,000 pounds (around 9,000 kilograms) of beef and bison to Quapaw Public Schools, while also donating to area food banks, day care centers, churches and Quapaw Tribe Title VI nutritional programs to provide protein for a healthy diet.

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