Tag Archives: turkeys

National Thanksgiving Turkey landing at Virginia Tech Gobblers Rest again

For the third consecutive year, the turkeys “pardoned” by the president are coming to Virginia Tech. A public open house to meet the two newest members of Hokie Nation will be held Nov. 23 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Livestock Judging Pavilion at 445 Plantation Road in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Over the years, Virginia Tech’s research, teaching, and outreach programs have been a driver of the U.S. poultry industry and have helped make turkey a staple of the American diet.

Now the university can add another feather to its cap: It will once again be home to the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate “wingman.”

For the third consecutive year, the famous birds will make the journey from the White House, where the turkeys are “pardoned” by the president in a formal ceremony, to Blacksburg’s Gobblers Rest, where they will live out their days and get to know the HokieBird.

A public open house to meet the two newest members of Hokie Nation will be held Nov. 23 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Livestock Judging Pavilion at 445 Plantation Road in  Blacksburg, Virginia. You can follow the progression of the birds’ journey from the White House to Blacksburg on the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s FacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages and post your own photos of the birds using the hashtag #PresidentialTurkeys.

“We love that the birds are coming back to Blacksburg to roost once again,” said Rami Dalloul, a world-renowned poultry immunologist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, who a few years ago sequenced the turkey genome. That discovery opened the door to new levels of understanding of the birds, as well as genetics in general.

“Virginia Tech and the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences have been great partners over the last two years, and we are excited that the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate are again returning to Gobblers Rest,” said National Turkey Federation chairman Jeff Sveen.

This year, the birds are coming from a farm near Huron, South Dakota. After two birds are chosen based on appearance and temperament, they head to Washington, D.C., where they stay at a hotel near the White House as part of a series of media events leading up to the presentation of the National Thanksgiving Turkey. The college will stream the formal ceremony during a Facebook Live event on Tuesday around 1 p.m. People can participate in a contest to name the birds on the White House’s official social media channels.

The event not only serves as the opening of the holiday season, but also reminds America of the history and role of agriculture, from feeding the world to growing the economy.

Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump have pardoned two groups of birds that came to live in Blacksburg.  Tater and Tot — the presidential turkeys from 2016 — and Drumstick and Wishbone — 2017’s pardoned turkeys — received world-class care and lived happy lives during their time in Blacksburg. They were famous around the world, as people often stopped by their home at Gobblers Rest to say hello and snap a photo. All four birds have died, which is not surprising given the short life expectancy of domestic turkeys.

The National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation started in 1947. The National Turkey Federation’s first chairman, Virginian Charlie Wampler Sr., was among the first to present a live turkey to President Harry S. Truman.

Years before, in 1922, Wampler was a Virginia Cooperative Extension agent who sought advice from the head of Virginia Tech’s Department of Poultry Science, A.L. Dean, on how to raise turkeys. In the following years, Wampler went on to create a growing business while Dean advised Wampler on turkey-raising techniques. Wampler is regarded as the father of the modern turkey industry and founded the National Turkey Federation in 1940.

Today, poultry makes up the largest sector of Virginia’s agricultural portfolio with more $1 billion in annual cash receipts. The industry provides a direct economic impact of $5,471,601,400 and overall contributes $13,248,985,000 in economic activity in the commonwealth, according to the Virginia Poultry Federation.

The Virginia Tech Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine help expand the state’s economy by conducting innovative research to benefit industry and educating the next generation of poultry scientists and veterinarians.

— Written by Zeke Barlow

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Store holiday leftovers properly to avoid food-borne illness

Holiday meal leftovers have almost as many traditions as the meals themselves. From turkey salad sandwiches to turkey tetrazzini, cooks want the leftovers for their traditional holiday meals to be as good, and as safe, as the feast itself.

Renee Boyer, consumer food-safety specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension, recommends putting leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer soon after a holiday meal to avoid temperatures that promote bacteria growth and turn food stale. As a general rule, plan to refrigerate leftovers within two hours of when the food is put on the table.

“The sooner you store leftovers, the better,” Boyer said. While the turkey is at room temperature, approximately 72 degrees F, it is in the temperature danger zone of 40 to 140 degrees F. This is the temperature range in which bacteria can grow. The cooler temperature of the refrigerator, 35 to 40 degrees F, slows down metabolic processes and therefore slows the growth of harmful bacteria.

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Obey food-safety guidelines when preparing a holiday turkey

As the winter holidays approach, families should know the proper way to roast a turkey. Virginia Cooperative Extension offers advice on safely preparing this holiday meal.

Safely thawing a frozen turkey is the first step. “One of the biggest food-safety recommendations when preparing a turkey is to defrost at cool temperatures,” said Renee Boyer, consumer food-safety specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension and as assistant professor of food science and technology at Virginia Tech.

Place the turkey in a shallow pan with the original wrapper, sliding the bird into the refrigerator and leaving it there until completely thawed. This keeps it below 40 degrees F. Defrosting will take approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey.

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Why deep-fat fry?

In recent years, new cooking methods have been added to the traditional roasting of the holiday turkey. One of the most popular methods originated in the South and is called deep-fat frying.

Deep fat frying has been used for many items including snacks, and it works for whole turkeys. When deep-fat fried, a turkey should come out moist and delicious, not greasy at all.

However, this method of cooking is dangerous and requires caution, said Renee Boyer, consumer food safety specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension. As with any oil frying method, serious accidents, including burns, are possible. Precautions must be taken to ensure the safety of anyone around.

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Virginia Tech helped hatch modern turkey industry

BLACKSBURG, Va., Dec. 15, 2014 – A.L. Dean was much more interested in birds such as warblers and robins than he was in turkeys when he was the head of the Department of Poultry Science at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in the 1920s.

Two men with Virginia Tech roots - Charles Wampler (left) and A.L. Dean (far right) - helped start the modern turkey industry.

Two men with Virginia Tech roots – Charles Wampler (left) and A.L. Dean (far right) – helped start the modern turkey industry.

But when Dean received a letter from a young Virginia Cooperative Extension agent from Rockingham County in 1922 inquiring about the possibility of artificially raising turkeys, Dean’s interest in turkeys took off.

That agent was Charles Wampler.  What followed in the years after Dean offered Wampler encouragement in this new farming technique not only altered the life of these two men, but also changed the turkey industry forever. Wampler is regarded as the father of the modern turkey industry.

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