The reprieve formally excuses the birds from being eaten so they can live out the rest of their short lives at “Gobblers Rest”

By Sean Neumann
November 26, 2019 03:47 PM
President Donald Trump (right) pardons Butter, the national Thanksgiving turkey, in the Rose Garden of the White House on Tuesday.
Patrick Semansky/AP/Shutterstock

Two turkeys escaped a Thanksgiving dinner fate on Tuesday when President Donald Trump continued the White House’s annual tradition of “pardoning” them ahead of holiday feasts across the country.

The birds, deliciously named Bread and Butter, both received a presidential reprieve. That formally excuses them from being eaten so they can live out the rest of their short lives at “Gobblers Rest” on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, according to the National Turkey Federation, the lobbying group which donates the turkeys to the White House each year.

Only one of the birds — in this case Butter, who was voted the national Thanksgiving turkey — was chosen for the White House ceremony. The alternate was just the “wingman.”

Next, Bread and Butter will join last year’s top turkeys, Peas and Carrots, at Gobblers Rest. They are bred for consumption, meaning they’re purposefully fattened up and have a short lifespan that typically only lasts about one year past their pardon.

RELATED: How Pardoned Turkeys Peas and Carrots Spent Their Big Day in Washington, D.C.

Bread and Butter posing for media at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Win McNamee/Getty

Peas and Carrots are the only other living turkeys to have been pardoned and are “doing well,” according to Beth Breeding, spokeswoman for the National Turkey Federation.

Breeding tells PEOPLE the turkeys’ life expectancy is about one to two years.

Though the National Turkey Federation began presenting presidents with a turkey back in 1947, when Harry S. Truman was gifted with one of the gigantic birds, the actual tradition of “pardoning” dates back to the late ’80s. President George H. W. Bush was the first to formally use the word, though other presidents had spared their would-be Thanksgiving meals.

RELATED: See Past U.S. Presidents with the Turkeys They’ve ‘Pardoned’

The ceremony now goes like this: Following a stay at a nearby Washington, D.C., hotel, the two birds travel to the White House where one of the two meets the president in the Rose Garden. That lucky bird is decided by a vote on the White House website (which the Trump Administration also uses to build an email list, according to NPR).

“It’s been a fun way to get the public involved,” Breeding says of the contest.

President Donald Trump (right) with Butter, the national Thanksgiving turkey, at the White House on Tuesday
SAUL LOEB/AFP/GEtty

The animals will be taken care of by faculty and students in the Virginia Tech animal sciences department and available for public visits, like Sunday’s upcoming meet-and-greet at the Livestock Judging Pavilion.

Non-locals can follow the turkeys along their journey on social media.

RELATED: Twitter Reacts to Trump Pardoning ‘Drumstick’ the Turkey — ‘Probably His Greatest Accomplishment’

“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,” Rami Dalloul, a professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said in a statement last week.

This is the fourth consecutive year the turkeys will head to Blacksburg after D.C. Previously, they went to Disneyland and elsewhere.

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