It’s Official! White House Bound!

It’s official!  Minnesota turkey farmer John Burkel – the current chairman of the National Turkey Federation – has been officially invited to bring two turkeys to the White House later this month for the National Thanksgiving Turkey pardoning ceremony with President Obama!

John will be the 12th Minnesotan to represent the turkey industry at this time-honored tradition. (Read more National Thanksgiving Turkey history here.)

That also means we need to start thinking of some creative names for the National Thanksgiving Turkey and his alternate.  We need your help!  Submit your ideas by November 10 using this online form – we will pick several of the top choices and run a little popularity contest on Facebook to come up with a few options to give to the Obama family, which will ultimately pick the names.

And if you’re stumped, we’ve included a list of the names that have been chosen since 1999 – check it out here!

In the meantime, here are the latest photos taken of John’s Presidential flock. As you can see, a special banner with an image of the White House has been put in their barn so the birds can preen and pretend they’re getting their photos taken by the paparazzi!

Minnesota's Presidential Turkey Flock 2013  | via

Minnesota's Presidential Turkey Flock 2013 | via

This is Alex, one of John and his wife Joni’s five kids. Here, he is cleaning out the “waterer” where the birds have access to fresh water all the time. He’s using a solution of iodine to clean it – that’s why the water looks brown right now. The iodine gets rid of all the bacteria that could make the birds sick.

Minnesota's Presidential Turkey Flock 2013 | via

Here’s a look at several of the birds – they are all tom turkeys (or males).

Minnesota's Presidential Turkey Flock 2013 | via

Looking very regal, wouldn’t you say?



Gobbling for a Presidential Pardon

Presidential Turkey Flock 2013 | via

We’d like to introduce you to a very special flock of turkeys who are currently going through some specific training in far northwestern Minnesota!

These birds – all males, or “tom” turkeys – are among the few, the proud who may be invited to travel to Washington DC in November for a pardon from President Obama. The birds are being raised by John and Joni Burkel and their five kids near Badger, Minnesota – which is just a few miles from the Canadian border!

Check out the turkeys’ special  home – it’s a bit like a mini version of the White House, don’t you think?

Presidential Turkey Flock 2013 | via

In the coming weeks, you will be able to read more about the Burkel family and hear from some of their kids, who are taking a very hands-on role in raising these turkeys. You see, in order to ensure the eventual National Thanksgiving Turkey and his alternate can behave themselves at the White House, all these birds must be acclimated to lots of noise, lights, music and human contact – definitely a fun job for the kids!

The history behind this Thanksgiving tradition in Washington DC dates back to President Truman in 1947, when an official ceremony was held to present the president with a turkey. Each year since then the National Turkey Federation has been invited to participate in this ceremony by raising and presenting the National Thanksgiving Turkey to the president. Early Presidential turkeys were destined for a dinner plate until President George H.W. Bush began the official tradition of pardoning the turkey in 1989.

With any luck, the Minnesota Turkey this year will serve his duty at the White House and then be brought (along with his lucky alternate!) to Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, to enjoy the holiday season. After that, the birds will move to Morven Park in Leesburg, VA to live out the rest of their lives.

Here are some addititional links to check out about the National Thanksgiving Turkey project:


Fun Stuff for Kids

Info for Parents  (food safety, recipes, etc.)

Minnesota Turkey’s Facebook Page (like us for fun updates!)

Follow us on Twitter – @MinnesotaTurkey

Be sure to check back often for updates and more photos and videos from the Burkel family as they continue raise and groom this very special Presidential turkey flock. In the  meantime, enjoy this video introduction to the flock!