The National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate took off on a United Airlines flight designated “Turkey One” on November 23, flying from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Washington, D.C. The birds will be greeted and pardoned by President Barack Obama on November 25 at the annual Presidential Turkey pardoning ceremony at the White House.
In partnership with the National Turkey Federation, this year’s Nicholas White turkeys have been raised for the past four months in California’s Central Valley by family-owned poultry producer Foster Farms. The birds arrived at SFO via Presidential Turkey motorcade accompanied by the official Presidential Turkey entourage, including handlers and private security detail.
Late last week, the yet-to-be-named presidential turkeys were selected in a final review at Foster Farms’ Presidential Turkey Ranch near Modesto, California, where 20 finalists strutted their stuff for the coveted title of National Thanksgiving Turkey. The turkeys were evaluated and selected by the chairman of the National Turkey Federation, Dr. Jihad Douglas, and Foster Farms turkey grower and third generation turkey farmer, Joe Hedden. A fifth grade class from Eisenhut Elementary in Modesto attended to cheer-on their favorite choice. The White House will officially name the birds based on suggestions that included hundreds of submissions from California schoolchildren.
“We wanted a proud bird, fit to meet the president,” said Hedden. “We chose this year’s birds based on superior plumage, posture, personality, sociability and manners. Our team worked to socialize the birds as they grew to prepare for the big day at the White House, which included playing music to acclimate to noise and teaching them to sit calmly on a table. This year’s turkeys are country music fans.”
“The annual presentation of the National Thanksgiving Turkey is an important tradition that pays tribute to Thanksgiving and recognizes the turkey industry’s role in the national holiday,” said Ira Brill, Foster Farms director of communications and unofficial presidential turkey historian. “Foster Farms is honored to raise the National Thanksgiving Turkey for the second time in five years and highlight the significant role of California agriculture in the national landscape.”
Representing the Nicholas White, a breed originating in California’s Sonoma Valley, this year’s National Thanksgiving Turkey boasts bold, patriotic red and white coloration. Although these birds will meet the president of the United States, they are raised no differently than all Foster Farms turkeys, and live comfortably in a barn where they are misted and fanned.
Following the pardoning ceremony, the presidential turkey and its alternate will live out their days at Morven Park’s Turkey Hill in Leesburg, Virginia. The remaining presidential flock will continue their lives at Foster Farms’ Presidential Turkey Ranch.