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