Turkeys and Thanksgiving go together for 88 percent of Americans surveyed by the National Turkey Federation. Each year, more than 46 million turkeys provide the entrée for gatherings, yielding leftovers for sandwiches, stew, chili, casseroles and turkey burgers.
In 2011, 736 million pounds of turkey were consumed in the U.S., while a few lucky birds avoided the chopping block.
The pardoning of a White House turkey began in 1863 when President Lincoln’s son, Tad, interceded on behalf of the bird and its life was spared. Now a tradition, two dressed birds and one live turkey are delivered to the White House each year. The live bird is “pardoned” and lives out its life on a historical farm.
At the Farm Sanctuary, turkeys get sponsored or adopted instead of eaten. “Turkeys are friendly and follow you around like puppy dogs. They’ll try to sit on your lap to be petted,” says Gene Baur, president and co-founder of the sanctuary’s New York and two California locations. “At our Celebration for the Turkeys, we feed them cranberries, pumpkin pie and squash. People visit to see them enjoy it. Guests’ snacks are vegan.”
Hundreds of turkeys have been adopted and given a lifelong home since the program’s inception in 1986. More than 8,000 people pledged to sponsor a turkey living at the sanctuary in a recent year, proving it’s not necessary to be a president to pardon a turkey.