The National Turkey Federation is preparing for its annual day at the White House with two toms in tow.
Peas and Carrots – the names chosen for this year’s honored turkeys – are to be pardoned by President Donald Trump in a ceremony at the White House tomorrow. While the ceremony offers a lighthearted opportunity for the leader of the free world to interact with a pair of docile birds, it also gives the trade association a valuable education and advocacy opportunity.
“It’s important to be able to have that interaction, to be able to express that one-on-one opinion, so we have to do it, but do it carefully,” Jeff Sveen, chairman of the National Turkey Federation, told Agri-Pulse. He didn’t get into specifics, but said they hope to speak about farm policy and export market issues.
“Hopefully we get some trade opportunities opened and some tariff work done,” he said.
The turkeys were raised at Riverside Colony, a hutterite community near Huron, S.D., and are about 21 weeks old. They were chosen at the farm last week after being whittled down from an original group of 50. Sveen said Peas and Carrots were chosen for their appearance and demeanor, and have been introduced to some of the lights and noises that might accompany this week’s festivities.
“We try to pick the ones that that are the best in that environment,” he said. “They are special breeding stock; they’re high quality birds. We wanted ones that would be the best we could do.”
After their appearance at the White House tomorrow, where both turkeys are to be pardoned but only one will be dubbed the National Thanksgiving Turkey, they’ll live out the rest of their days at “Gobbler’s Rest,” a poultry facility affiliated with Virginia Tech. Rami Dalloul, a poultry immunology and health professor at Virginia Tech, said the birds add an educational prospect for the visiting public.
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“We take the opportunity when people come and visit to teach them about the poultry industry, turkey production in general,” he said, noting this is the third consecutive year the turkeys will be hosted there. “It’s been a learning curve, so to speak: when to have open houses and when not; how to explain to people things that are more relevant to the public … so you get to learn.”
The turkeys are vying to be the 71st National Thanksgiving Turkey and are the first birds to come from South Dakota (the chairman of the federation typically gets the honor of raising the birds). The pardoning tradition came to be in an off-the-cuff remark from President George H.W. Bush when he said “let me assure you, and this fine tom turkey, that he will not end up on anyone's dinner table, not this guy -- he's granted a Presidential pardon as of right now -- and allow him to live out his days on a children's farm not far from here.”
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