Liberty and Bell are going home for the holidays — and then off to college — after President Joe Biden pardoned the Minnesota-raised turkeys on Monday morning.
"These birds have a new appreciation of the words 'let freedom ring,' " Biden said at the annual turkey pardoning event on the White House South Lawn.
The ceremony dates back to the National Turkey Federation presenting a turkey to President Harry Truman in 1947 and celebrates a uniquely American culinary tradition and industry.
This year's pardon highlights Minnesota's decadeslong reign as the nation's top turkey producer. Nearly one in five turkeys raised in the U.S. are grown in Minnesota, a higher share than any other state since 2003.
Turkeys from Minnesota were last presidentially pardoned in 2017 and 2013.
During the event, Biden made a few jokes about his age, as Monday was his 81st birthday.
Biden also said Liberty and Bell love Honeycrisp apples, hockey and the Mall of America — but mistakenly said they love "1,000 lakes," when Minnesotans know the state has well over 10,000.
He closed on a serious note: "We have so much to be thankful for as a nation."
The birds were raised by Jennie-O Turkey Store, the country's second-largest turkey company behind Butterball, in Willmar. It has been 30 years since the brand, owned by Hormel, last had its birds in the White House ceremony.
"We are the country's leader in turkey production," Jennie-O president and chair of the National Turkey Federation Steve Lykken said Sunday.
It has been a year of recovery for the company, which saw turkey production drop 23% in 2022 because of the bird flu outbreak, according to WATT Poultry.
Demand for turkey had already been falling — along with national production every year since 2017.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates 2023 production numbers are up in both Minnesota and nationwide as the second year of the bruising avian influenza outbreak claims fewer birds. Bird flu does not pose a threat to food safety, health experts say.
Animal rights activists used Monday's occasion to call for a reprieve for all turkeys. PETA and comedian Sarah Silverman urged Americans on Monday to celebrate "ThanksVegan" this year.
Americans now eat about 14.6 pounds of turkey per capita every year. To compare, per capita consumption of chicken is nearly 100 pounds annually.
Liberty and Bell, now 4 months old, will live out their days under the care of the University of Minnesota.
Kahina Boukherroub, assistant professor of avian reproductive physiology, expects the birds to return from their White House journey later this week. She said they'll be kept in the research and training facility and interact with students, including undergraduates learning about turkeys.
"They were raised to be pets," Boukherroub said. "They're used to a lot of human interaction. So you have to keep that going for them to keep them not stressed and happy."
Regarding whether birds will be allowed to keep listening to Taylor Swift and Prince in their new home, as they did during their upbringing on a Willmar farm, Boukherroub demurred. "No word yet on whether there's an official playlist," she said.
On Sunday's unveiling at the Willard InterContinental, interim U president and former Hormel CEO Jeff Ettinger said the birds are headed to a "quiet and comfortable roost."