The National Turkey Federation has been presenting a turkey to the President of the United States in celebration of Thanksgiving since 1947. President John F. Kennedy unofficially pardoned the turkey in 1963 and the official pardoning, as we know it today, began with President George H.W. Bush in 1989.
Foster Farms founders Max and Verda Foster would be proud to know that their small family farm founded over 75 years ago would eventually raise the National Thanksgiving Turkey not once, but twice – in 2010 and in 2015.
The Presidential Turkey flock starts off as small poults, or baby turkeys. The Presidential Turkey flock are Nicholas White turkeys, which originated in California’s Sonoma Valley in 1957. Today, the Nicholas White is the industry standard.
Like all Foster Farms turkeys, the Presidential Turkey flock is raised with the birds’ comfort and health as top priorities, in a cage-free environment that is protected from the elements. The Presidential Turkey flock is socialized daily to prepare for their roles as public figures. They even listen to the radio to become comfortable with different voices and sounds. Turkeys are also trained to sit calmly on a table for the White House presentation.
Only the finest turkeys make the grade. Presidential Turkeys are selected based on plumage, posture, personality, sociability and manners. Traditionally, two turkeys are selected for the ceremony – the official Presidential Turkey and an alternate.
Once pardoned, the Presidential Turkey and his alternate retire to a nearby farm. The 2015 Presidential Turkey (and his alternate) retired at Morven Park’s Turkey Hill, a historic turkey farm located at the home of former Virginia Governor Westmoreland Davis in Leesburg, Virginia. The 2010 Presidential Turkey (and his alternate) retired at Mount Vernon Estate in Virginia, President George Washington’s home.
For more information about the history of the National Thanksgiving Turkey and how the Presidential Turkey flock was raised, visit www.presidentialturkey.com.