Before Thanksgiving, President Joe Biden will take some time to participate in one of the nation's strangest presidential traditions: the turkey grace.
Every November, the sitting president pardons a turkey or turkeys to a crowd at the White House, sparing it from the dinner table and the fate that befalls millions of turkeys during Thanksgiving celebrations.
This year, Biden will pardon two turkeys, Liberty and Bell. According to PBS, the birds weigh about 42 pounds each and were raised in Willmar, Minnesota.
The turkeys arrived in Washington, D.C., over the weekend and were placed at the Willard Hotel, where they were allowed to roam freely around the plastic-sheeted hotel room.
How did the tradition begin?
Turkeys have been sent as gifts to American Presidents as early as the 1870s as part of annual thanksgiving traditions, and the official presentation of the turkey to the president began in 1947.
Turkey thrift began during the Ronald Reagan administration, with the president deciding to send the show bird to a zoo or farm instead of going for the steak.
However, the ceremony was officially established under George W. Bush, as he officially pardoned the bird in response to animal rights activists picketing nearby.
Since then, it has become a time-honored White House tradition for the president to pardon a turkey or two.
The road to forgiveness
Lucky turkeys follow a complicated and exaggerated path to freedom, as the White House explained in 2018.
The “presidential flock” of contenders “is groomed for potential White House stardom from an early age,” and the birds are acclimated to the crowds, the lights, and standing comfortably at a table.
The two prize fowls now have names and battle it out for the title of official turkey title through an online vote before the winner is granted the coveted grace.
Before the ceremony the birds rest at the luxury Willard Hotel. Last year's birds, Corn and Cob, were pictured lounging in their fancy hotel room before the final contest for freedom. This year's birds were also able to enjoy their hotel room after being flown from Minnesota to Willard via a black Cadillac Escalade, according to CBS News.
According to Steve Lykken, president of the National Turkey Federation and president of the Jennie-O Turkey Store, who spoke to The Associated Press, the turkeys were also prepared for the spotlight on Monday. “They were listening to all kinds of music to get ready for the crowds and the people on the march. I can confirm that they are, in fact, Swifties, and they enjoy a Prince,” joked Lykken. “I think they're absolutely ready for prime time.”
What will happen to the turkeys after they are pardoned?
After a heated vote, Corn was declared last year's winner, but fortunately the second bird also always escapes the second and first alternate, so Liberty and Bell will be spared.
The White House says that, after the ceremony, the birds retire for a “much-deserved rest and relaxation” and no birds appear on the White House Thanksgiving table.
Both birds from this year's grace ceremony will retire to their home states, where they will spend the rest of their days at the University of Minnesota's College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
The birds in previous years have been sent to various locations, including Virginia Tech's Gobblers Rest exhibit in Blacksburg, at a farm called Frying Pan Farm Park in Virginia.
Some birds during the administrations of Barack Obama and George W. Bush were even sent to Disneyland to greet crowds at the theme park and parade down Main Street.
Unfortunately, rescued turkeys don't tend to live long past their prime. As animals are farmed and raised for food, they also grow faster than in the wild and don't have long lifespans.