The average turkey lives a relatively short life, rarely making it past three years old. This fact makes the annual National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation pardoning ceremony a significant event for the turkey community.
Turkeys from across the nation are selected each year to be officially pardoned by the President and live out their years at George Washington’s historic Mount Vernon estate. The pardoning ceremony occurs at the White House Rose Garden in the days preceding Thanksgiving. The pardoning of the presidential turkey has been unofficially occurring for decades, but it was under George H.W. Bush’s administration over 20 years ago that made the event a formal tradition. The National Turkey Federation selects one producer a year to raise the presidential turkey and in 2010 President Barack Obama pardoned a Foster Farms turkey named Apple that was raised at Wellsford Ranch near Waterford.
“The turkey was raised exactly how we raise all of our other turkeys that we sell to consumers,” said Ira Brill, director of communications at Foster Farms. “The only difference is that the turkey has to be trained to cope with large amount of noise and be able to handle interaction with people because the turkey needs to behave well at the ceremony.”
Along with Apple, Foster Farms was also charged with raising an alternate turkey named Cider. Both turkeys were raised separate from the flock for the President’s safety. The turkeys were flown to Washington, D.C. on “Turkey 1”, an annual temporary renaming of the President’s airplane Air Force 1, and stayed at the same hotel as President Obama on the night of his inauguration. Apple and Cider have grown used to a luxurious lifestyle and now reside at Mt. Vernon occupying a turkey hut there courtesy of Foster Farms, who provides all around care for the turkeys.
“They are enjoying a comfortable and pleasant retirement,” said Brill.