President Trump recently did what hundred of presidents did before him: pardon a turkey, or more often a pair, during Thanksgiving. The turkeys, once pardoned make their way to Gobbler Rest where they are free to live out their days. Trump, showing a rather cavalier sense of humor, joked about how he was unable to reverse Obama’s decision to pardon Tator and Tot the previous year. Trying to remove Obamacare and revoke turkey pardons may not be exactly the same. Still, beyond that, we wanted to look at some other aspects of the turkey pardon. Just where do these turkeys come from?
The best source we found for the background of the gobbler pardoning ceremony was a 2013 article from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association posted on the AVMA website.
The story goes over the experience of veterinarian Bob Evans who, in 2013, was a key player in the turkey ceremony. While most people likely imagine a farm full of turkeys where a lucky turkey is simply plucked from the line to the slaughterhouse there is A LOT more planning that goes into the turkey.
The turkeys come from the National Turkey Federation and have been coming from the same location since the Truman years. The turkeys have an extensive team which includes groomers, veterinarians and a long list of other caretakers. Bob Evans is one of the few food industry veterinarians that spends hours grooming, bathing, and entertaining turkeys. Dr. Evans was the veterinarian in charge of overseeing the flock of roughly 40 birds raised specifically for the presidential pardon ceremony. The birds are chosen for their colors, which are not fully developed until early adulthood. Because the ceremony calls for a colorful and beautiful bird they can’t be sure they have the right one until the bird is older.
The birds are also exposed to loud music and frequent human interaction. The ceremony is a loud, boisterous event (as is any event with The Donald!) and most turkeys would just plain freak out if they weren’t prepared for the ceremony. Out of the 40 turkeys, the two with the most confidence and beauty are chosen to be pardoned. Only one turkey officially receives the pardon both turkeys are spared the fate of their feathered friends.
With a team of veterinarians, technicians, groomers and a long list of other caretakers, the 2013 turkeys ended up costing around $375 per pound. With each bird typically weighing around 40 lbs that means the turkeys cost around $15,000….each! That doesn’t account for all the turkeys that don’t make it to official ceremony.
For me, it sort of ruined the idea of one lucky turkey making it out of the slaughterhouse and into greener pastures. What do you think?