For now, Corn and Cob are living in luxury in Washington’s Willard Intercontinental Hotel, but on Tuesday, at a Rose Garden event, only one of the turkeys will receive a presidential pardon ahead of Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday.
The broad-breasted white turkeys, which are bred and fed for size, were raised by Ron Kardel, National Turkey Federation chairman and a sixth-generation turkey, corn and soybean farmer from Walcott, Iowa.
According to the White House website, Corn, whose favorite snack is sweet corn, was hatched on July 20, 2020 and weighs just over 19 kilograms. Cob, whose favorite food is soybeans, was hatched on the same day and weighs just over 18.5 kilos.
As has been the case since 1947, the two were introduced to the public Nov. 23 in a hotel event.
The White House is running an online poll for people to choose which bird to pardon.
The tradition of turkey farmers giving presidents the birds as gifts for Thanksgiving dates to the 1870s, but according to the White House site, so many turkeys were being sent that in 1923, then-President Calvin Coolidge discouraged farmers from sending them.
However, the tradition was already established, and by the 1940s, farmers were once again sending turkeys to the president.
The first official turkey pardoning was done in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush.
While you might think the unpardoned turkey will end up as the centerpiece of a Thanksgiving Day feast, all the turkeys since 2016 have gone to Virginia Tech’s “Gobblers Rest” exhibit in the school’s Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences. Before that, the turkeys had been sent to other locations for exhibit, not eating.
“Virginia Tech has a long tradition of supporting the turkey industry through research and outreach, so it’s fitting that the Presidential Turkeys becoming part of the Hokie Nation is a new tradition,” said Rami Dalloul, a professor in the school’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a world-renowned poultry immunologist, in a 2019 news release. The school says he was the lead member of a consortium that sequenced the turkey genome.