Badger, MN Turkey Farmer to Bring Turkeys to Washington DC for Presidential Pardon

Contact: Lara Durben, Minnesota Turkey Growers Association

763.682.2171 or



Badger, Minnesota Turkey Farmer to present the

National Thanksgiving Turkey to President Obama and family

(Buffalo, MN – November 2013) – John Burkel, a turkey farmer from Badger, Minn., will present this year’s National Thanksgiving Turkey to President Obama and his family on Wednesday, November 27.  Burkel has received this honor because he is the 2013 Chairman of the National Turkey Federation.

2013 marks the 66th anniversary of the National Thanksgiving Turkey tradition at the White House, a highly anticipated ritual, signaling the unofficial beginning of the holiday season and providing the President an opportunity to reflect publicly on the meaning of Thanksgiving. The ceremony itself, dating back to President Harry S. Truman, didn’t become an actual turkey pardoning until President George H.W. Bush declared it so in 1989.

The 2013 National Thanksgiving Turkey flock was hatched July 8. Initially, Burkel pulled about 80 toms (male turkeys) from the flock aside. This group was eventually whittled down to six toms with potential “star quality”, which were moved to a special shed on his farm. One of those toms will ultimately be selected as the National Thanksgiving Turkey, and one will be selected as his alternate.

Burkel is raising the National Thanksgiving turkey flock using normal feeding and other production techniques. The one exception is that the birds are provided increased interaction with people, light, and noise so that they will be prepared for the White House Ceremony.

The entire Burkel family – John, wife Joni, and their five children – will make the trip to Washington DC. In addition, the Badger High School senior class (which includes Burkel’s daughter, Andrea) will also travel to our nation’s Capitol for the festivities.

Burkel is the 12th Minnesotan to have the honor of presenting the National Thanksgiving Turkey to a U.S. President.

MTGA is hosting and maintaining a special section on its website for the project at The website includes pictures, video and a weekly blog written by the Burkel Family chronicling the care, management, and extra visitors the special flock has had. The site also features fun turkey puzzles, mazes and color sheets for kids as well as information for parents on nutrition, food safety and plenty of family-friendly turkey recipes.

MTGA also ran a naming contest for the two turkeys on its website, which culminated in the following top 3 most popular names being sent on to the White House for consideration:

1)      Viking & Gunnar

2)      Gobblynob & Butterfluff

3)      Ole & Sven

The White House makes the ultimate decision on what the two turkeys will be named.

MTGA is visiting four different schools in the metro area with a brother of the prestigious turkey that will be spending Thanksgiving at the White House.  “We’re excited to be able bring turkeys into the classroom because it’s really the best way for kids to learn more about where their food comes from and the important work that all farmers do to provide safe, nutritious and affordable food to the world,” said Steve Olson, executive director of MTGA.

In addition to the website, MTGA uses Facebook ( and Twitter (@MinnesotaTurkey) to help publicize additional details of the National Thanksgiving Turkey.

For more information, please visit


About John Burkel:

John Burkel is a fourth generation turkey farmer from Badger, MN and he raises approximately 70,000 turkey hens annually for the whole bird market for Northern Pride, Inc., a grower-owned turkey processing facility located in Thief River Falls, MN.  The cooperative was formed in 1989 by independent turkey growers throughout Northern Minnesota and North Dakota.

John has served on the Northern Pride board of directors since 2000 and also served as a board member for the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association from 1999-2008, acting as president of that organization in 2004-2005.

Since 2007, John has been a member of the National Turkey Federation (NTF) Executive Committee and currently serves as the 2013 NTF Chairman. He has also served as chairman of NTF’s Live Production Committee and TURPAC, NTF’s political action committee.

He and his wife Joni have five children – Vanessa (sophomore in college), Andrea (senior in high school), Alex (sophomore in high school), Jack (5th grade) and Emily (kindergarten).

About MTGA

MTGA is a nonprofit trade organization based in Buffalo, Minn., that began in 1939 with a mission to foster a successful turkey industry in Minnesota. The state ranks #1 for turkey production and processing in the U.S. with its 250 turkey farmers raising approximately 47 million turkeys annually. Minnesota has the most family-owned turkey farms of any state in the U.S. and many of these turkey farmers are 3rd, 4th and 5th generation farmers. For more information, visit or

Get Your Gobble On!

Just in time for the weekend … check out this fun video of folks from Minnesota getting their gobble on!  Most are from Badger High School – filmed by Alex Burkel. If there was ever a turkey video worth sharing with your friends, this is it! :-)

Badger, MN Classroom Visits to the Farm

Last week, two classes from Badger Elementary School visited the Presidential flock, learned more about raising turkeys and, in the process, helped acclimate the turkeys even further to lots of noise and commotion. The photos below are of the kindergarten and 5th grade classes.

John and Joni Burkel’s two youngest children, Emily and Jack are part of those classes, as well. Emily is a kindergartner and Jack is a 5th grader. Judging from these photos, it looks like everyone had a great time learning about turkeys!

Presidential Turkey Flock 2013 | Student Visits on the Farm - via




Jack handing out turkey toes

Presidential Turkey Flock 2013 | Student Visits on the Farm - via






It Takes Two to Tango

Presidential Turkey Flock 2013 - from Minnesota | via

This post is purely for fun and entertainment! One of the Badger High School students was in the large turkey barn at the Burkel farm last week and found herself a friend – or dancing partner, perhaps!

We couldn’t resist creating this video – thanks, Kate, for giving us permission!

Digging the Snood

What would you name these 2013 Presidential Turkey Hopefuls? from MN | via

Have you heard? Female turkeys really dig the snood!

But what is the snood? And the wattle for that matter?

Check out this short video featuring Alex Burkel, whose family is raising the Presidential flock in Minnesota this year. Alex points out the wattle and the snood – no thanks to a photobombing turkey – and also explains that turkeys have about 3,500 feathers or so.

Turns out, a snood’s main function in life is to attract the girl turkeys (or “hens”) to the boy turkeys (or “toms”).

See it really is true – chicks dig the snood!


A Look Inside a Turkey Barn

Presidential Turkey Flock 2013 | via

We’ve got new video from the Burkel family – specifically Alex, Jack and Emily – who took a video camera into one of their large turkey barns and provided a little tour and some information about what turkeys drink and eat.

The barn featured in the video is housing about 4,000 turkeys right now – you can see that they aren’t raised in cages (which is sometimes a common misperception) and they have plenty of space to move around.

Turkeys are housed in modern barns like these because it protects them from the weather elements – whether it’s really hot in the summer or below zero in the winter – and it keeps predators away, as well.

The turkeys’  barn is much like our own houses – it provides heating, cooling and a clean, safe environment in which to live.

As Alex explains in the video, the family chose about 80 birds out of this larger flock to raise as the “Presidential flock.”  Once those birds grew bigger, the Presidential flock was narrowed down to about 20 hopefuls, which in turn, was reduced to less than 10 who have “made the cut.”  Time will tell which two birds are the most well-behaved to make the trip to Washington DC!

Check out the video and let us know if you learned anything new about turkeys!

10 Fun Facts about Minnesota Turkey & Turkey To Go Concession

For immediate release


Lara Durben, Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, Ph: 763/682-2171 (office),  612/554-0920 (mobile),


Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA) has been serving up turkey at the Minnesota State Fair for 54 years (since 1958).  Our State Fair concession stand, Turkey To Go, is known for its signature Giant Juicy Turkey Sandwich and Slow-Roasted Turkey Drumsticks.

We expect to cook approximately 20,000 pounds of turkey at Turkey To Go this year for our Giant Juicy Turkey sandwiches.

Turkey To Go has expanded its mobile food cart presence into multiple locations around the Twin Cities. Up-to-date location information on a daily basis can be found at

  • Downtown Minneapolis – On most weekdays during lunch, Turkey To Go’s Mobile food cart is located at South 8th Street and Nicollet Mall. During Minnesota Twins home games, the cart is set up at South 6th Street and Hennepin Avenue.
  • Target Field – Turkey To Go is behind home plate between sections 112 and 113 as well as outside Section 318

Turkey To Go opened two new storefronts – with expanded menu options – in 2011!

  • Downtown Minneapolis in the Baker Building (skyway level), 706 Second Avenue South
  • Downtown St. Paul in the Alliance Bank Building (skyway level), 56 East Sixth Stree

Turkeys are raised in U.S. are free of added hormones and steroids.  In fact, there are no hormones or steroids approved for use in turkey production in the U.S.

Nutritionally, turkey has more protein than chicken or beef – plus fewer calories with zero trans- and saturated fat. Our Giant Juicy Turkey Sandwich (eaten without the bun) and Jumbo Turkey Drumstick are gluten-free.

Minnesota is ranked #1 for turkey production, processing, and hatching in the U.S. and is home to 250 turkey farmers who raise approximately 46 million turkeys annually on 600 farms.  Minnesota has the most family-owned turkey farms of any state in the U.S. and many of our turkey producers are 3rd, 4th and 5th generation farmers.

Formed in 1939, Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA), is a nonprofit trade association dedicated to fostering a successful turkey industry. Today MTGA and its sister organization, Minnesota Turkey Research Promotion Council, work on behalf of Minnesota’s turkey industry in the areas of research, promotion, public relations, issues management, education and government affairs.

MTGA’s Web site – – features links to more than 1,700 turkey recipes for consumers and the foodservice industry. We also have recipes at our State Fair booth in the Dairy Building.

Producing a quality, nutritious and safe product is the top priority for turkey farmers as well as turkey processing companies, which follow USDA guideliness for food safety. Consumers, too, need to do their part to ensure that turkey is handled properly in the kitchen and cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F., as measured by a food thermometer.

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Minnesota’s Turkey Farmers Proud of Turkey To Go’s Ever-Expanding Reach


For immediate release



Lara Durben, Minnesota Turkey Growers Association

Ph: 763/682-2171 (office) or 612/554-0920 (cell)


Minnesota’s Turkey Farmers Proud of Turkey To Go’s Ever-Expanding Reach

Hunger Solutions MN To Receive Portion of Every State Fair Sale

(Buffalo, MN) … Now in its 54th year at the Minnesota State Fair, the Turkey To Go concession continues to proudly serve turkey raised by Minnesota’s family turkey farmers, as it has done since 1958.

The Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA) owns the concession stand and its goal now isn’t much different than five decades ago – to showcase to Fairgoers that turkey can be a delicious, nutritious option for meals all year-long.

“Turkey has always been about Thanksgiving and our farmers are proud of that heritage,” said Steve Olson, MTGA Executive Director. “However, our presence at the Minnesota State Fair and the success of Turkey To Go even beyond the fairgrounds has enabled us to show consumers that turkey can be amazing any time of year.”

Turkey To Go at the Minnesota State Fair showcases its signature Giant Juicy Turkey Sandwich, along  with a gigantic half-pound version as well as the popular roasted turkey drumsticks. Topping choices for these items include: bleu cheese crumbles and buffalo sauce; brie cheese and cranberry sauce; and crispy chopped bacon and sweet glaze.

Thanks to a mobile cart in downtown Minneapolis, two venus in Target Field, and two indoor food court restaurants in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Turkey To Go has expanded its reach year-round.

Turkey farmer Duane Jaenicke of Roseau, Minn., says he and other turkey farmers are proud to see Turkey To Go’s success. “Many of Minnesota’s turkey farmers are 2nd, 3rd or even 4th generation farmers and their families saw the beginnings of turkey’s State Fair presence in the 1950s and 1960s.  To reach a point where our Giant Juicy Turkey sandwich is a popular lunch-time option in the Twin Cities year-round, and we are a go-to food vendor at Target Field is beyond exciting,” Jaenicke explains. “Plus, the downtown Minneapolis and Saint Paul food court locations all offer expanded menu options such as pitas and salads, further highlighting all the delicious ways you can prepare and serve turkey.”

For the fifth straight year at the State Fair, MTGA is proud to announce that a portion of every sale at Turkey To Go will be donated to Hunger Solutions Minnesota (, an organization that is dedicated to ending hunger.

In addition to the flagship State Fair location, Turkey To Go can be found at the following locations:

  • Mobile food carts (spring, summer and fall) – downtown Minneapolis (6th & Nicollet and 8th & Nicollet) – follow @TurkeyToGo on Twitter for daily updates on location/hours
  • Alliance Bank Building food court (year-round), 56 East 6th Street, downtown St. Paul – Monday-Friday, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. – EXPANDED MENU
  • Baker Building food court (year-round), 706 2nd Avenue South, downtown Minneapolis – Monday-Friday, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. – EXPANDED MENU
  • Target Field – behind home plate between Sections 112-113 on the main concourse as well as outside Section 318.

“Turkey To Go continues to expand its presence throughout the Twin Cities,” said Olson. “It’s been exciting to be able to showcase delicious and healthy turkey products raised right here in Minnesota by nearly 250 family farmers who are dedicated to raising the highest quality turkey for consumers.”

About Turkey To Go

Turkey To Go concession at the Minnesota State Fair is located at 1256 Clough Avenue, next door to the All-You-Can-Drink Milk Stand.

Turkey To Go’s mobile food cart locations in downtown serve the same menu and can be found most weekdays during lunch at South 8th Street and Nicollet Mall.  A second location at South 6th Street and Hennepin Avenue is utilized during Minnesota Twins’ home games. For up-to-date location information, follow Turkey To Go on Twitter (@TurkeyToGo).

In addition, Turkey To Go has two locations in Target Field during Minnesota Twins’ home games, and is open year-round with an expanded menu in the Baker Building food court (706 2nd Avenue South, downtown Minneapolis) and the Alliance Bank Building food court (56 East 6th Street, downtown Saint Paul) from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. weekdays.

Fans can find Turkey To Go on Facebook (, Twitter (@TurkeyToGo), and at

About MTGA

MTGA is a nonprofit trade organization that began in 1939 with a mission to foster a successful turkey industry in Minnesota. The state ranks #1 for turkey production and processing in the U.S. with its 250 turkey farmers raising approximately 46 million turkeys annually. Minnesota has the most family-owned turkey farms of any state in the U.S. and many of these turkey producers are 3rd, 4th and 5th generation farmers. For more information, visit or

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