Tanka and Niman Ranch partner to assist economic revitalization on Pine Ridge 

SANTA FE, N.M. – Native American Natural Foods LLC today announced a new partnership involving its Tanka brand of buffalo-based food products and Niman Ranch, a leader in sustainable agriculture known for its humanely raised beef, pork and lamb.

The partnership is designed to help build a sustainable Native American supply of humanely raised bison, cattle and other pasture raised animals, including hogs, raised on Native prairie by Native people, according to a statement. The new alliance aims to support the economic revitalization on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, which is one of the poorest communities in the country.

“Today’s announcement represents long term systematic change,” Dawn Sherman, CEO of Native American Natural Foods and member of the Lakota, Shawnee and Delaware tribes, said in a statement. “We are investing in our children and grandchildren with the help of Niman Ranch and their commitment to our Native people. We asked each other, at this stage of the business, how do we protect what is there? How do we support the re-emergence of Native culture? Niman Ranch had that aligned vision, the experience, markets, and support to make this happen.”

Native American Natural Foods, a Native-run and Native-owned company based in Kyle, S.D.,  created the Tanka Bar in 2007. The bison and fruit bar reimagined the meat snacking category, expanding and elevating it beyond jerky, according to a statement. Sold through specialty retailers and distributors such as REI, United Natural Foods (UNFI) and Natural Grocers, Tanka is looking to meet increasing demand through sourcing bison from Native suppliers and to rely on an indigenous supply. 

“We are proud to share with Tanka what we have learned from our experience growing from one cattle rancher, then one lamb rancher and later one hog farmer to a network of 740 and growing,” said Chris Oliviero, general manager of Niman Ranch. “It has always been a part of Niman Ranch’s foundation to support rural farming communities and we understand many of the hurdles. We felt we could align and support the Tanka mission.” 

Niman Ranch and its network of 740 small- and mid-size independent family farmers raise livestock sustainably and humanely with no antibiotics or added hormones.

According to the 2017 USDA Agricultural Census, nearly 90% of the total sales produced on tribal land comes from non-Native producers. Non-Native producers account for 65% of all active farms and ranches on Native American Reservations.

“Between our two brands, we seek to address these issues and create market access to achieve 100% bison raised on Native lands so our Native American roots and ownership will be fully realized,” said Sherman. “Bison is a building block of developing healthy regenerative Native communities. By returning bison and pasture raised animals to Native lands, we are ideally suited for the Native American Natural Foods’ mission.”

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