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Everything you need to know about this year’s White House Turkey Pardoning Ceremony

President Trump names Butter—a turkey from North Carolina—as the 2019 National Thanksgiving Turkey.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, Nov. 26, President Donald Trump participated in the time-honored tradition of pardoning two turkeys, and choosing one to be the National Thanksgiving Turkey, in the White House Rose Garden. 

The act of giving a live turkey to the President of the United States has been a Thanksgiving tradition since 1947, yet that lucky turkey hasn’t always had the same fate it does now. 

Prior to 1963, when President John F. Kennedy decided to reprieve the animal with a sign that read, “Good Eating, Mr. President!”, turkeys were eaten by the president and his family for the holiday feast. The official Pardoning Ceremony wasn’t enacted until President George H.W. Bush’s presidency in 1989.

two turkeys in front of mic stand with family
Bread and Butter stare out upon a sea of cameras as Kerry Doughty and his family address the press on Monday, Nov. 25. (Photo by Jess Feldman)

Now, two turkeys are born and raised to be be pardoned by the president and live out their days on Virginia Tech University’s Gobblers Rest following the ceremony, which they have done for the past four years. 

Prior to the 2019 ceremony, the two turkeys, known as Bread and Butter, spent the night at the Willard InterContinental Hotel, paid for by the National Turkey Federation, getting their beauty rest before a day of press conferences, meetings and an introduction with Donald and Melania Trump. 

Both of the birds were raised under the supervision of this year’s National Turkey Federation Chairman, Kerry Doughty, former president and CEO of Butterball, LLC, in North Carolina on his family farm. This year, the turkeys raised on Doughty’s farm are American Humane Certified for the first time, meaning they were verified as receiving the most humane treatment possible. 

hokie bird with turkeys
Bread and Butter meet the Virginia Tech Hokie at a press conference on Monday, Nov. 25. (Photo by Jess Feldman)

Bread and Butter, both just 19 weeks old, have grown up listening to soft rock music and preparing for the bright lights, flashes and loud noises that come with this tradition, according to Doughty. 

“I’m just a family farmer trying to put a face on what we do,” Doughty said at a press conference held at the hotel on Monday, Nov. 25. 

Following a live social media vote that opened on Monday, Nov. 25 and closed on Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 11 a.m., Butter was chosen by the American people as the National Thanksgiving Turkey. 

After the live ceremony, Bread and Butter will make their way to Gobbler’s Rest in Blacksburg, where they will be cared for by Rami Dalloul, a professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and world-renowned poultry immunologist. Last year’s two turkeys, Peas and Carrots, live on the grounds as well.

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