Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Ryan Quarles, left, pardoned a turkey at Elmwood Stock Farm on Monday ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. At right, Mac Stone, who runs the farm with his wife, Ann, and Ann’s brother, John Bell, held the turkey for the pardoning event. Find more pictures from the event here. (Kentucky Department of Agriculture)
GEORGETOWN, Ky. (Nov. 20, 2023) – Turkeys are normally the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dinners, but this year one turkey at Elmwood Stock Farm received a reprieve. Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Ryan Quarles pardoned the tom on Wednesday at the Georgetown farm.
“This Thanksgiving, this tom turkey won’t wind up on someone’s dinner table,” Commissioner 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. These look like the turkeys you find at the grocery store, but the similarities stop there,” said Mac Stone. “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, the Kentucky’s turkey industry was responsible for as much as $1.08 billion in total economic activity throughout the state, creating or supporting as many as 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.
Between now and the end of the year, Americans are expected to eat more than 40 million turkeys. But turkey can be enjoyed year-round.
“Kentucky raised turkeys are produced primarily for sandwich meat,” said Jamie Guffey, executive director of Kentucky Poultry Federation. “So, after the holiday season, we set our New Year’s resolutions, and eating better is normally one of them. January is when Kentucky raised Turkey’s take the spotlight.”