Quarles pardons turkey in time for Thanksgiving

Published 5:00 am Thursday, November 23, 2023

KENTUCKY TODAY

It’s been a prerogative of the President of the United States for years, so Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles joined in the tradition on Monday and pardoned a turkey for Thanksgiving.

Turkeys are normally the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinners, but this year a turkey at Elmwood Stock Farm in Georgetown received the reprieve.

“This Thanksgiving, this tom turkey won’t wind up on someone’s dinner table,” Quarles said.  “Our turkey and poultry industry is important to Kentucky and we wanted to have a little fun this year and give one turkey a pardon.  It is just one way to bring a little recognition to an industry that has a positive impact on Kentucky agriculture.”

The turkey, a Narragansett tom, will remain at Elwood Stock Farm for the remainder of its life to serve as a member of the farm’s breeding stock. The sixth-generation family farm raises and sells organic, free ranging heritage breed and broad-breasted turkeys, along with producing a variety of organic produce, meats, and eggs.  Celebrating its 20th year of USDA organic certification, Elmwood Stock Farm is run by Mac and Ann Stone and Ann’s brother, John Bell.

“The Broad-Breasted Bronze turkeys have full, plump white-meat breasts many of us are accustomed to, Mac Sten stated.  “These look like the turkeys you find at the grocery store, but the similarities stop there.  The heritage turkeys are barely domesticated cousins of the wild turkeys you see along back roads and hiking trails.  These have a more equal white-meat to dark-meat ratio, and the meat overall has a deeper, richer flavor and texture.”

In 2022, Kentucky’s turkey industry was responsible for $1.08 billion in total economic activity throughout the state, creating or supporting up to 3,952 jobs.  Since 1970, turkey consumption has nearly doubled from 8.2 pounds per capita to about 15.3 in 2021.  The United States is the world’s largest turkey producer and largest exporter of turkey products.

Pardoning a turkey has become an American Thanksgiving tradition since President George H. W. Bush made the event official in 1989. Presidents have been doing it every year since then. But pardoning turkeys can be dated back to Abraham Lincoln after his son, Tad, begged for the life of his beloved bird and the Christmas turkey became a pet.