Three Rivers Meat ProcessingPhoto by Christian Toews

Choctaw Nation partnered with several others to build Three Rivers Meat Company to provide quality food and employment to area residents.

Three Rivers Meat Company brings relief to southern LeFlore County food desert

By Shelia Kirven
March 5, 2024

Editor’s note: The original grand opening scheduled for April 4 has been delayed until April 12.

Residents of Octavia/Smithville, Oklahoma, know that running to the grocery store has never been something you could do quickly in their area. You had to drive almost an hour to purchase items the local minute marts or Dollar General store did not carry. Also, opportunities for employment in the area have always been scarce. That is until now.

Choctaw Nation has partnered with area investors to build and operate Three Rivers Meat Company, which will increase the level of food availability and employment security within the area. It will be the only facility within 800 miles to offer high-quality custom meat processing, top-shelf value-added products, a café, a retail store, a fresh meat market and Oklahoma-sourced products under the same roof.

During the planning stage, visits were made to facilities in Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and as far away as Wyoming to bring back ideas for the best features possible. In the construction phase, 90% of the contractors were local.

The company’s workforce is made up of 60% Choctaw tribal members. The number increases to seventy-four percent when counting spouses of tribal members.

Andrea Goings, Three Rivers Meat Company Food Safety Coordinator and Choctaw tribal member, previously drove from nearby Beachton to DeQueen, Arkansas, to work. She woke daily at 1:00 a.m. for her 3:00 a.m. shift at Pilgrim’s Pride. "It’s so nice not having to get up at one in the morning. I get to see the family more," she said.

Employees are taught to do business using the "Golden Rule." Managers strive to ensure the best work environment and accommodations possible and will train those who do not have experience.

Choctaw Tribal member Dusty Nichols is an investor, rancher, and Smithville native. He credits Tribal Councilperson Eddie Bohanan with understanding the area’s needs and helping to get the project underway.

Other local investors include a professor of Meat Science and an industry leader in research and innovation in the meat industry worldwide, a deer processing facility operator, and an award-winning value-added product producer for over 25 years.

Three Rivers Meat Processing
Photo by Christian Toews

(Left to Right) Andrea Goings and Andrew Hagelberger display the large pellet smokers that can hold up to 900 pounds of meat.

Three Rivers Meat Company is a USDA-inspected facility with a full-time inspector on-site to ensure animals are humanely treated and harvested, food safety and quality standards are maintained, and products are produced safely. According to Nichols, by being USDA-inspected, processed products and meat can be sold and shipped across state lines anywhere in the U.S.

The animal you bring in for processing will be the animal you take home. A quality assurance track and weigh system is in place, with cameras, tip tags and weight confirmation documented on harvesting sheets at arrival, after harvest and at pickup.

The facility will process beef, hogs, lambs and goats. Seasonally processed wild game will be processed in a separate facility. The company will also process Choctaw Nation beef shipped to local schools and Choctaw Nation entities.

A full-service retail store in the facility will stock meat cuts, including steaks, chops, chicken, roast, hamburger, sausages and bratwurst, cheeses, deli meats and pre-cooked items such as smoked pork ribs, brisket, fajitas meats, smoked pork tenderloin, pulled pork BBQ, baked beans, stuffed jalapeños, cold salads and more. Grocery isles will be stocked with kitchen and camping essentials, including fresh fruits and vegetables, coffee, and canned foods. A freezer section with meat products, pizzas and ice cream will be available, along with an area for produce, dairy products, fresh meat and drinks.

Inside the 3500 square foot retail area is the Three Rivers Café, where customers can enjoy a great dining experience with fresh meats and ingredients produced in the facility. A certified kitchen will prepare deli items and daily lunch menu selections, and a salad bar, homemade desserts and self-serve ice cream will be available.

Three large on-site smokers and rotisserie, which can hold up to 900 pounds of meats, will prepare items to be enjoyed in the retail store, café or bulk ordered. Products, including beef jerky, snack sticks, sausages, bratwurst, and cured hams, will be made on-site and for sale in the storefront. They will also be sold in other retail establishments, including Choctaw Nation businesses. Three Rivers Meat Company is proud to have on board one of the best award-winning jerky and sausage makers in the industry.

Gift items available will include custom Three Rivers coffee mugs, insulated tumblers, water bottles  t-shirts, hoodies, and caps. Oklahoma packaged products, such as candies, brittles, and snack crackers, will also be available. Three Rivers Meat Company signature BBQ sauce and seasonings will be available for purchase and online ordering will be available in the near future.

Individual and group tours of the entire facility are available, with window viewing providing a first-hand experience.

Three Rivers Meat Company’s grand opening will be on April 12, 2024. Visitors can tour the facility, sample products, enjoy the café and shop the retail area.

Stay up to date with news and promotions by following Three Rivers Meat Company on Facebook and through their website.