The sad myth of a presidential pardon for the White House turkey

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The President of the United States has been given a Thanksgiving turkey every year since 1873.   The original benefactor of the White House was  Henry Vose, a Rhode Island turkey farmer.    He donated a turkey every year until his death in 1913.

The formal presentation to the President began with Harry Truman in 1947.  The Truman Library suggests Mr. and Mrs. Truman dined on the gift.  The same was true in the Eisenhower years.  Records show  John Kennedy was given a turkey four days before his assassination.  Newspapers at the time reported he returned the 55 pound bird saying "we'll let this one grow."    

The first official presidential pardon for a turkey came during the Reagan administration, and it became a "formal" event in the George H. W. Bush administration.  

Since the National Turkey Federation, which donates the birds, wants the biggest possible turkey for the White House, it is always given a "Broad Breasted White Turkey."   This turkey has been bred to produce the most amount of meat in the shortest time.   Left alone they can easily reach weights  better than 60 pounds.    Unfortunately for the turkey it becomes so obese, it usually dies from heart disease, respiratory failure and joint damage. before it reaches one year of age.

This year President Trump "spared the life" of "Drumstick", a 36 pound bird.  And while Drumstick was spared the Trump's table, like all his species, the clock is ticking.