Ramah Navajo Foods, a joint venture between Blue Mountain Meats of Monticello, Utah, and New Mexico's Ramah Navajo Chapter, announced plans to open a meat processing and wholesale distribution center in McKinley County, New Mexico, opening next spring, reported BusinessWeek.
Ramah Navajo Foods heralds two "firsts" for the state. It will mark the first tribal, public and private economic development project in New Mexico, and it will be the first medium-sized USDA-certified plant in the state.
A joint effort with the New Mexico Economic Development Department, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, McKinley County, and the city of Gallup, amongst other organizations, Ramah Navajo Foods will be built on 15 acres of private land in McKinley County.
The company anticipates to process 2,000 animals annually and will initially employ 12 people, reported Cibola Beacon.
The benefits of Ramah Navajo Foods will extend beyond the meat-processing plant into the greater Navajo Nation, which represents the largest concentrated market for lamb and mutton in the country. Ushering the return and support for the traditional sheep ranching economy in northwest New Mexico, Navajo ranchers will receive better market prices for their animals without reliance on out-of-state processing plants.
Even more, the plant will produce cuts preferred by Navajo tastes -- something unaddressed by out-of-state producers.
"To our elders, sheep is life, and we hope that our work will draw respectfully from, and honor, their wisdom,” said Yin May Lee, board member of Ramah Navajo Foods.