Where Turkeys Go After They're Pardoned By the President

What happens to the turkey that the First Family doesn't eat?

November 26, 2014, 5:54 AM
PHOTO: President Barack Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey, "Popcorn,"
President Barack Obama pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey, "Popcorn," with his daughters Sasha and Malia during an event at the White House in Washington, Nov. 27, 2013.
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

— -- It's a presidential tradition to "pardon" a turkey on the eve of every Thanksgiving -- and now we know where the lucky birds go to retire.

After the ceremony at the White House, this year's spared turkey will head to Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia. In past years, the birds have gone to George Washington's Mount Vernon.

"Before that, Disney World. And before that, Disney Land," said Keith Williams, a spokesperson for the National Turkey Federation. "And about maybe 10 or 20 years ago, they went to a petting zoo in the area."

The federation works with different farmers each year to send two birds to the White House. One will be pardoned, and the other is a backup. Neither is really at risk of winding up on the First Family's dinner table, Williams said.

"Everyone calls it 'the pardon,' but it's the presentation of the national Thanksgiving turkey," he said. "We've done this since Truman. I believe it was George H. W. Bush who made an offhand comment that he was going to pardon the turkey, and that's where it became a custom."

This year's turkeys will join one of last year's turkeys, Caramel, at Morven Park. The other turkey, the one President Obama chose as the national Thanksgiving turkey, died this past summer.

"They're not bred for longevity," Williams said. "They're not pets. They're not workhorses. They don't live that long."

The turkeys come from an Ohio farm. The White House announced that this year's turkeys are named Mac and Cheese.

Teresa Davenport of Morven Park said she'll be transporting the turkeys from the White House to the their new home, which is about an hour's drive.

"I'm bringing them in the back of our van and hoping it's not snowy and rainy," she said.

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