On November 26, 2019, President Donald J. Trump continued the time-honored White House tradition of officially pardoning the National Thanksgiving Turkey!
After polls were open for 24 hours for Americans to vote online, this year’s honoree, “Butter,” won a close vote over his competitor, “Bread.”
Both turkeys will be joining last year’s contestants, Peas and Carrots, for some much-deserved rest and relaxation at Virginia Tech’s Gobblers Rest exhibit in Blacksburg, Virginia.
A look back: 2018 Turkey Pardoning
After the votes were tallied, Peas earned the honor of 2018 National Thanksgiving Turkey.
Peas and Carrots traveled to our Nation’s capital all the way from South Dakota! They were raised on a farm near Huron, S.D., under the supervision of National Turkey Federation Chairman Jeff Sveen and by turkey grower Ruben Waldner.
The Presidential Flock of 50 turkeys was hatched in July, and Peas and Carrots were selected to travel to Washington, D.C.
The “Presidential Flock” is raised much in the same way as turkeys marketed for U.S. customers—protected from weather extremes and predators in a barn, free to strut about with constant access to water and a feed mix of corn and soybeans.
The flock is prepared for potential stardom at the White House from an early age, with the birds becoming acclimated to the sounds of a crowd, bright camera lights, and having to stand comfortably on a table during the presentation. The turkeys will also prepare for their visit by interacting with children and families on stops around the Huron community.
Upon arrival in Washington, Peas and Carrots got some rest at The Willard Hotel, adjacent to the White House grounds, ahead of the pardoning ceremony.
After the pardoning, both Peas and Carrots will make the journey to their new home at Virginia Tech’s “Gobblers Rest” exhibit in Blacksburg, Virginia. At Gobblers Rest, students and veterinarians within Virginia Tech’s Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences care for the turkeys. The National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate are available for the public to visit and learn about the university’s teaching, research and outreach programs in animal and poultry sciences and veterinary medicine.
Turkeys have been sent as gifts to American Presidents from as early as the 1870s, sometimes arriving in elaborate crates and costumes. By the 1920s, the influx of these turkeys had increased so greatly that President Calvin Coolidge discouraged Americans from sending them, reported a 1923 New York Times article. Eventually, however, the tradition resumed, and President Coolidge received not only turkeys, but quail, ducks, geese, rabbits, and a deer.
The most unusual gift was a raccoon, which was not served for dinner but became a Coolidge family pet.
In the 1940s, farmers and manufacturers began to send birds to the White House as a means of promoting the poultry industry. President George H. W. Bush was the first to formally grant the bird a Presidential pardon, taking a cue from the animal rights activists picketing nearby.
The National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation is a time-honored American tradition, which is marking its 71st year since the ceremony first took place in 1947.