2 Minnesota Turkeys Will Receive Biden's Thanksgiving Pardon This Year

MINNESOTA — The two lucky turkeys who will be flown to Washington, D.C. to be pardoned by President Biden this Thanksgiving will come from the Jennie-O farm in Minnesota, the company told Patch in an email Friday.

The Presidential Turkey Flock, from which the two turkeys will be chosen for this year’s pardons, was hatched in early July, according to Steve Lykken, president of Jennie-O Turkey Store and National Turkey Federation chairman.

Every year, either the National Turkey Federation’s chairman or a turkey farmer from the chairman’s home state raises the Presidential Flock. According to the National Turkey Federation, the flock is “exposed to lights, cameras and action early on in preparation for potential stardom,” as the chairman begins to set their sights on the best pair for the honor.

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How is the final decision made?

“The two strongest and most confident turkeys will make their way to the White House this fall,” Lykken told Patch.

Find out what's happening in Across Minnesotawith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Even before they appear on the national stage to meet the president, the chosen pair are given the royal treatment. As part of the tradition, the soon-to-be-pardoned turkeys are treated to a night at the lavish Willard InterContinental hotel in D.C. before the big day.

According to Travel + Leisure, the 2022 pardoned turkeys—Chocolate and Chip—further prepared for their time in the spotlight by “listening to music in anticipation of the crowd noise.”

After their pardon, turkeys have for years been sent to spend the rest of their days at “Gobbler’s Rest” at Virginia Tech University’s Department of Animal and Poultry Science.

“Virginia Tech has a long tradition of supporting the turkey industry through research and outreach, so it’s fitting that the Presidential Turkeys becoming part of the Hokie Nation is a new tradition,” Rami Dalloul, a professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a world-renowned poultry immunologist, said in a news release shared by the university in 2019.

Though there is some debate as to who gave the first turkey pardon due to several presidents’ similarly-themed Thanksgiving antics over the years, according to the National Constitution Center, it was President George H.W. Bush who made the turkey pardon official when he took office in 1989. It has been an annual tradition since.

Part of the fun is the annual name reveal for both celebrity turkeys, whose monikers typically go together just as well as Biscuits and Gravy, Peas and Carrots, or Peanut Butter and Jelly. Yes, all three of those name combinations have already been used: in 2004, 2018, and 2021, respectively.

The names of this year’s pair will ultimately be chosen by the White House later this fall, but the National Turkey Federation will be asking local schools to help suggest names for the turkeys that will be sent off to the White House for consideration, according to Lykken.

If you are local and want to give your two cents, you can do so by dropping by the Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council educational booth—located in the dairy building—at the Minnesota State Fair.

For now, the next big turkey stars are spending their days on the farm, oblivious to the fact that millions of eyes will turn to them over the holidays.

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