President Biden pardons North Carolina turkeys

US National Turkey Federation celebrates 75-year tradition of National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation
calendar icon 24 November 2022
clock icon 3 minute read

 National Turkey Federation (NTF) Chairman Ronnie Parker presented the National Thanksgiving Turkey named “Chocolate” to President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. today during the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. 

After pardoning Chocolate and Chip, President Biden reminded, "We can’t forget the reason for Thanksgiving in the first place. The pilgrims thought it was pretty important in tough times to come together and thank God, to be grateful for what we have. That’s what the Thanksgiving tradition is all about: being grateful for what we have."

Chocolate and Chip at their press briefing

"Chocolate” and his alternate, “Chip,” weighing in at about 46 pounds each, received a formal pardon from the holiday table and will now reside at the Talley Turkey Education Unit at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. This year’s presentation marked an exciting milestone as NTF celebrated 75 years of this time-honored American tradition dating back to 1947.

NTF chairman Ronnie Parker raised the National Thanksgiving turkeys. Lexie Starnes (right). Photo courtesy of the National Turkey Federation

“When I started my career in the turkey industry 44 years ago, I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to present the National Thanksgiving Turkey at the White House,” said NTF Chairman Ronnie Parker. “I want to thank President Biden for welcoming the National Turkey Federation and my family to the White House. Chocolate and Chip had a pretty remarkable day for two turkeys from North Carolina! While this event is a fun tradition that has spanned 75 years, it is also an important reminder of the importance of American turkey producers and agriculture in delivering food to the table. It’s an honor to represent these hardworking men and women. Happy Thanksgiving!”

Chocolate and Chip

The 2022 National Thanksgiving Turkey and alternate were raised in Monroe, North Carolina, by NTF Chairman Ronnie Parker. Parker is a 44-year veteran of the turkey industry and serves as General Manager of Circle S Ranch. Parker was joined in presenting the National Thanksgiving Turkey by Lexie Starnes, a 4th generation member of the Starnes family involved in the operation of Circle S Ranch. While in Washington, D.C., Chocolate and Chip stayed at the historic Willard InterContinental. Following their visit to the White House, the turkeys will retire to NC State University where they will be under the experienced care of veterinarians, faculty and students within the Prestage Department of Poultry Science.

NTF’s participation in the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation began in 1947 with President Harry Truman. It has continued for 75 years across 14 successive administrations.

History

According to White House historians, the tradition of “pardoning” White House turkeys has been traced to President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 clemency to a turkey recorded in an 1865 dispatch by White House reporter Noah Brooks, who noted, “a live turkey had been brought home for the Christmas dinner, but [Lincoln’s son Tad] interceded in behalf of its life. . . . [Tad’s] plea was admitted and the turkey’s life spared.”

More recently White House mythmakers have claimed that President Harry S. Truman began this holiday tradition. However, Truman, when he received the turkeys, and subsequent presidents did not “pardon” their birds. The formalities of pardoning a turkey gelled by 1989, when President George H.W. Bush remarked, “Reprieve,” “keep him going,” or “pardon”: it’s all the same for the turkey, as long as he doesn’t end up on the president’s holiday table.

The White House Presentation signals the beginning of the holiday season of national thanks, historically representing agriculture’s bountiful harvest. The presentation also highlights the contributions of America’s turkey growers as well as the important role of agriculture in modern America.

Images courtesy of The White House and the National Turkey Federation

Sarah Mikesell

Editor

Sarah Mikesell grew up on a five-generation family farming operation in Ohio, USA, where her family still farms. She feels extraordinarily lucky to get to do what she loves - write about livestock and crop agriculture. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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