Feasibility study set for Cherokee meat production

by Jul 7, 2020Front Page, NEWS ka-no-he-da





A feasibility study for a potential Cherokee meat production facility was approved Tuesday, July 7 at the regular session of Budget Council. 

The resolution was submitted by Painttown Rep. Dike Sneed and after a few amendments it was unanimously passed by Tribal Council. According to the resolution, this is a response to the “incredible hardship and burden on the nation’s food supply due to the global pandemic.”

“It necessitates the need for the Tribe (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) to be sustainable and create its own food sources so that the members of the Tribe will always have food,” reads the resolution.  “The time for preparing for future food shortages is now, by investing in an angus farm, which would produce meats of all varieties (beef, pork, chicken), and would ensure all enrolled member families have access to these critical sources of food.”

The EBCI Division of Commerce will be tasked with facilitating the study. Along with the looking into the logistics of the project, the study will also research potential profits that could be gained from selling meats to both enrolled and non-enrolled communities, stores, and restaurants. 

“I’ve seen that there’s a need for this,” said Rep. Sneed.  “We could buy the beef from the surrounding counties and brand it as Cherokee’s. I think it’s a win-win situation all the way around. There’s been some studies done. David [Wolfe] and I met with a couple of fellas in the Chief’s office, and they were wanting us to go in with existing butcher shops. I’d rather the Tribe go ahead and build its own.”

Yellowhill Rep. Tom Wahnetah asked if Commerce was the best division for this study. Rep. Sneed said that Commerce would be in contact with Agriculture and other departments. 

“We can take a look at it,” said  Michael Parker, director of EBCI Destination Marketing.  “And I told [Dike] maybe after we get the feasibility done then it might rest somewhere else or develop a sort of enterprise approach to it.” 

Tribal Council Vice Chairperson David Wolfe said they have been in contact with people from the state to discuss this concept. He said that the state is looking to fund smaller processors throughout North Carolina to lessen reliance on nationwide meat processors. 

Tribal Council Chairman Adam Wachacha proposed four amendments to the resolution that were all added and approved by Council. The first was to replace the term ‘angus farm’ with ‘meat markets’. The next was to change the phrasing that Cherokee would need its own ‘butcher shop’ to ‘processing plant’.

The final two amendments came in the section of ‘Be it finally resolved’, adding that the feasibility study would also need to identify funding and need to hire subject matter experts to assist in entering the market. 

“There’s a lot of free resources out there. The state, they’re willing to step in and help with this. They have a lot of this information already because they’re wanting to expand the whole processing plants across the state. So, we can fit right in there with them,” said Vice Chairperson Wolfe.

“The meat process plants that they had, they’re 50 years old. They’re really excited about us wanting to start form the ground-up to build a brand new one,” said Rep. Sneed about discussions with North Carolina. 

Much more will be revealed once the study is complete, and many issues were not discussed. A potential location, cost, and environmental impact were not brought up on the floor. All these items will be reported through the study. 

Parker suggested a 60-day timeline for the feasibility study, a timeline which Tribal Council approved.