Turkey Federation shows off ‘Bread’ and ‘Butter’ before presidential pardoning

Zachery Silver
The Hagstrom Report
Wellie Jackson and his family pose with Butter, left, and Bread, turkeys from their Clinton, N.C., farm that were selected to become this year’s national turkeys.
Photo by Zachary Silver/The Hagstrom Report

Flanked by the family that raised them in North Carolina, staffers from the National Turkey Federation, members of the Virginia Tech University Department of Animal and Poultry Science, and last but certainly not least, their distant cousin, the Virginia Tech HokieBird mascot, there stood a pair of turkeys in the ballroom of the Willard InterContinental Hotel.

They are Bread and Butter, this year’s national Thanksgiving turkey and its alternate, with their names revealed only on the morning after selection by President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump from a list of 15 pairs proposed by the National Turkey Federation.

On Tuesday, the turkeys traveled to the White House just a block away to be presented, with one of the two to be officially pardoned by the president in a November tradition that has roots back to 1947.

President Harry Truman was the first to receive the turkeys and President George H.W. Bush was the first to pardon a turkey in 1989.

By tradition, the turkeys come from the home state of the National Turkey Federation president. This year that’s Kerry Doughtery, former president and CEO of Butterball. The honor of raising the turkeys went to Wellie Jackson of Clinton, N.C., one of 700 farmers who raise turkeys for Butterball. Joined by his wife, Tara, and three children, Jackson presented the turkeys to journalists.

“This is a huge honor for me and my family to get to raise this presidential flock,” Jackson said. “It has been a lot of fun, a lot of work, and it has been a unique experience. If you’re a turkey grower … this is about as good as it gets.”

Jackson was especially proud that this year’s turkeys are the first to be “American humane certified,” a title that was accredited to his operation after an intensive audit into the living conditions of his farm.

“This is no cupcake audit,” Jackson said.

The turkeys had their own room at the Willard until the ceremony. After being pardoned, the turkeys head to Blacksburg, Va., where they will be tended to for the remainder of their lives by Rami Dalloul and Virginia Tech veterinarians at Gobblers Rest, which is already home to last year’s honored fowl, Peas and Carrots.

Following tradition, Trump spared the lives of both turkeys presented to him, but he announced an official presidential pardon for Butter, who was officially designated this year’s national Thanksgiving turkey.

According to the White House website, Bread weighs 45 pounds and “loves Cheerwine, bluegrass music and college basketball,” whereas Butter is 47 pounds and “loves sweet potato fries, bagpipes and watching NASCAR.”

But if you ask Jackson, his turkeys love classic rock above all else.

“They got ready this year by getting used to camera, lights, dealing with all of you people,” he said. “They also listened to music. They really like classic rock.” ❖