At least one Minnesota turkey will be spared this Thanksgiving.
But no guarantees for the days after.
"He'll get to go live at my girlfriend's parents' place," said turkey farmer Peyton Linn, setting the nameless bird on a table in front of gawking media, legislative staff and some roving cabinet secretaries at a State Capitol reception on Tuesday.
"At least for a little longer," added Jes Westbrock, president of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and Linn's mom.
So continues Minnesota's proud — if stony — tradition of not making too big a deal about our food.
Gov. Tim Walz and other dignitaries and industry players appeared at the Capitol with the turkey on a table, mostly, to say hello, talk poultry news and then let everything continue on its predestined way.
The bird boasted white plumage, lobster-red wattle and caruncles, a pensive, beady stare and — as tradition dictates — no name.
While those North Carolinian turkeys named "Chocolate" and "Chip," who were pardoned on Monday by President Biden and spent a night in the luxurious Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C., will go live long lives on the campus of North Carolina State University, Minnesotans approach their livestock with less whimsy.
In other words, the bird may end up on a dinner plate someday.
Moreover — a bipartisan concern lately — there are constitutional limits on the executive branch's authority.
"As the political reporters know," Gov. Tim Walz told the media gaggle, "I don't have pardon power."
But a governor does have the power to hold a news conference and shine a light on one of Minnesota's leading industries.
Minnesota — particularly in the west — is sturdy turkey country, with more than 40 million birds and 600 family farms. That's nine turkeys for every human in the state. Roughly 20% of the birds eaten across the country will be grown in Minnesota, Walz said.
But it's been an upside-down year for the state's turkey growers. High-path avian influenza has hit more than 100 farms, and more than 3 million birds have been culled. Yet, the industry says it has emerged again strong.
"We got hit again on another farm in the fall," said Westbrock, who raises 1.5 million birds on nine farms in Stearns County. "It's stressful. It's heartbreaking. But we have a close-knit industry.
"For a bad situation, it could've been a lot worse."
The average price of frozen hen turkey in the U.S. has fallen to less than $1 per pound in recent weeks, but it's still 12% higher than a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reflecting deep retail discounts. Despite bird flu's impact to commercial flocks, producers say there'll be enough turkey to go around, though they suggest consumers may need to settle for a smaller bird than, say, that prized 14-pounder.
At Tuesday's reception, three whole birds wrapped in plastic from Minnesota-based processing facilities — Willmar's Jennie-O (owned by Hormel Foods in Austin), Marshall's Turkey Valley Farms and Thief River Falls' Northern Pride — sat in a basket behind the phalanx of cameras.
Last year's turkey received a name (Harold). But this year, the governor's staff shook their heads when asked by reporters about the bird's moniker. It seemed the state has returned to stoic form.
After the reception and remarks, Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen leaned next to the podium, sighing.
"This is my favorite press conference of the year," said Petersen. "But I wish we would've named the bird."
Below him, a child in a Goofy sweatshirt — grandson to Sleepy Eye turkey farmer Butch Brey — posed with the unnamed turkey, now curiously extending is neck, for glamour shots. Asked by a reporter for his assessment of the tom turkey, the boy didn't hold back.
"I like it."