Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Not just any turkey will have the opportunity to stay in a posh D.C. hotel, garner lots of media attention and be "pardoned" by the president today. To end up at the White House (and not on a plate), the lucky turkey and his alternate had to beat out more than 60 eligible fowl contenders.
The search for the perfect presidential turkeys began last July when a flock of 60 to 80 of turkey farmer John Burkel’s poults hatched on his farm in Badger, Minn.
Burkel is the current chairman of the National Turkey Federation, which has presented a turkey to the president every year since 1947, when Truman was in office. As this year’s chairman, Burkel will have the honor of presenting the National Thanksgiving Turkey to President Obama.
As you can imagine, training more than 60 poults at once is not easy, so in August, Burkel, his wife and five children culled the contenders down to 20. They moved the poults from one of their big turkey barns (which are as big as a football field) to a special garden shed in their backyard. That’s when preparation for the annual White House ceremony really began.
National Thanksgiving Turkeys must be able to handle noise, camera flashes and the possibility of meeting two very important Portuguese Water Dogs. To prepare the poults for all the extra attention and stimuli, Burkel and his family took lots of photos, created lots of background noise in their shed and occasionally brought in the family dog to really stir things up.
“They listened to anything from Vivaldi to John Mayer,” Burkel says with a laugh.
Burkel even tried to train his flock to gobble on command. Which, he laments, didn’t go so well.
Alas, all 20 toms couldn’t meet the president, so the Burkel family winnowed the contenders down to six. “The six picked themselves,” Burkel says. “Once they were cut down to 20, you could see the ones that would let you pick them up without effort and were socialized the most.”
When we spoke with Burkel earlier this month, he was still trying to choose his top two toms, but he was pretty certain he knew who they would be.
“The one who is the most socialized also happens to be the one with the brightest color and most character. The others haven’t matured quite as fast.”
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
After spending years in and out of a
shelter, a letter from his original owner
helped Roofus find a forever home.
Vegas oddsmaker Johnny Avello made
his predictions for the annual dog show,
and the top contenders may surprise you.
Help your cat safely explore the outdoors
by taking her on a stroll. Our veterinary
behaviorist walks you through…
We spotted canine Instagram celebs like
Gizmo, Toast, Marnie and Menswear Dog
sporting spring’s most wearable…
Ahead of the Westminster Dog Show, the
American Kennel Club will host its
seventh annual Meet the Breeds event.
The Boerboel, a South African Mastiff, is a strong and territorial breed who is not suited to inexperienced dog owners.
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.