Yet another presidential pardon

If we would have had his conversation prior to December of 2013, I would have had a completely different take on it. That was the day I sat down with John Burkel of Badger, Minnesota, about three weeks after the president of the United States pardoned his two turkeys.

Before my visit with John about the process, I would have argued that we should not be granting “clemency” to turkeys and instead we should be talking about the best cooking method to use for them.

I just finished my Rural Route Radio program with Peter Gruhl who has been the turkey limousine driver from the farm to the White House for the past seven years. This conversation took place the morning of the pardon. The turkeys—Peas and Carrots—as named by a White House poll, were resting in their hotel room. Yes, the turkeys are given a literal red-carpet arrival at a high-end hotel in DC and provided with their very own room.

That part alone would have bothered me greatly because of my belief that we must not give human qualities and characteristics to our food animals. We call that anthropomorphism. However, I now see the benefit of this custom as an opportunity to connect the farm to the fork and shine a spotlight on agriculture.

Had it not been for the conversation with Burkel five years ago I probably would have said “No” when The Salvation Army of Omaha, Nebraska, contacted me a couple of years ago to ask if we would supply a pig for Mayor Jean Stothert to pardon. Instead I said, “Sure” and she has pardoned a Loos pig three years in a row as part of the promotion for Bacon-fest in Omaha, a fund raiser for The Salvation Army youth activities.

With that first pig pardon (a 65-pound spot gilt), I absolutely could not believe the media presence that showed up. We were in local radio stations, every TV station was present as were all the newspapers. The mayor wearing this beautiful red, white and blue dress and as she held this pig, the cameras went into overdrive.

So now I am here to tell you that being a part of something of this nature grants us a tremendous opportunity to share the real facts about modern food production. In the case of turkeys, we produce a pound of meat with 25 percent less feed than in the past. In layman’s terms, that means to produce a 17-pound Thanksgiving turkey it requires 4.25 pounds less feed per bird and with U.S. turkey production hanging just short of 250 million annually it takes 530,000 tons less feed to produce the same number of birds.

We seem to be getting better at explaining the progress we’ve made in lowering the cost of food. As Farm Bureau indicated last week that family of 10 will spend 22 cents less than last year, $48.90, for their Thanksgiving meal. I am fully aware the consumer typically only understands what things cost them but it has come to my attention that we need to be sharing a whole lot more.

I don’t expect them to understand the numbers on improved efficiencies, but I don’t think that should stop us from talking about it. We have the “greenest” food production system of any country on the globe and spend very little time educating folks about it.

On the subject of education, another selling point for me goes back to the turkey pardon. Peas and Carrots have made the trip to Virginia Tech to live out the remainder of their lives and will continue their journey of educating consumers about the importance of animals on the planet as it comes to planet and human health.

So, in closing, I have become a big fan of using food animals as a means of educating the consumer about how that very animal has not only provided wholesome, honest nutrition for their family but also at improving the world we live in.

Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at, or email Trent at [email protected].