Last year, President Joe Biden said no to Peanut Butter and Jelly for Thanksgiving dinner.
Not the sandwiches. Biden has acknowledged he actually is a big fan of the lunchbox classic. What the president said "no" to was making a pair of Indiana turkeys, affectionately named Peanut Butter and Jelly, the centerpieces of traditional holiday meals.
Peanut Butter and Jelly were last year’s presidentially pardoned turkeys, the first from Indiana in about 15 years.
With their new freedom and celebrity, Peanut Butter and Jelly have been living a life of luxury at Purdue University. That’s right, they’ve been gobbling up the good life.
The two toms, or male turkeys, are enjoying their retirement at Purdue’s Animal Sciences Research and Education Center, a farm setting just about 10 miles off campus.
While there are about 700 turkeys that are taken care of at the Center, Peanut Butter and Jelly have their own digs. You can’t miss it: It’s a small red barn with a big 3-foot insignia on the back that reads “Seal of the National Thanksgiving Turkey.”
The barn is newly-built for the duo, and has air conditioning for the summer months and heating for when the weather gets chilly.
That barn opens onto to a fenced pasture and grove of trees — all told, between the barn and grassy area, Peanut Butter and Jelly have about 2,000 square feet of space to call their own.
“They don’t know how good they have it,” said Jillian Ellison, a spokeswoman with Purdue’s Agricultural Communications Office. “They’re like dogs that way.”
That’s not the only way they’re spolied: The turkeys also regularly get treats. According to Jason Fields, the poultry unit manager and Peanut Butter’s and Jelly’s main caretaker, their favorites are blueberries, grapes and grub worms.
The two turkeys, which weigh about 45 pounds each, are good friends — where one goes the other follows, Fields said. They rarely are more than a few feet apart.
They also have a special relationship with Fields, who tries to give them hugs fairly often.
He says each bird has its own personality. Jelly has a little extra skin over his eye that gives him a perpetual scowl.
“That’s just the way he looks,” Fields said. “It just looks like he’s grumpy all the time.”
But the appearance is fitting. He describes Jelly as the bird with attitude. Peanut Butter, on the other hand, is a bit more friendly.
In truth, Ellison said, they both are really sweet and love to be around people. They recognize the sound of Fields’ truck tires on the gravel road, coming out to greet him each morning. Peanut Butter and Jelly also like to be outside in their pasture when workers or students are walking around the Center and barns.
They are a bit of attention hogs, or turkeys, Fields said.
It makes sense, though, they were raised to be comfortable around people.
Peanut Butter and Jelly were raised by a farming family down in Jasper. They were two of about 40 in the flock of turkeys raised for possible inclusion in the annual holiday photo opportunity on the White House lawn. That group also got its own brand-new barn and the family made sure to interact with them multiple times throughout the day.
Andrea Welp, the farmer, said her two young children would play music and spend time with the turkeys so they were used to loud noises and lots of movement around them.
They also hosted visitors at the farm to see the flock, including family, friends, neighbors and several field trips. That’s actually how Peanut Butter and Jelly got their names — several students who visited put those names in the suggestion box.
Welp said Peanut Butter and Jelly stood out from the flock to be selected as the turkeys of honor: “They were front runners from very early on,” she said.
She worked with all the turkeys every day and even practiced looking presidential, which she described as strutting their stuff up on the table at the White House.
“Peanut Butter just knew what he had to do from the beginning to make it to get his presidential pardon,” Welp said, “and Jelly wasn’t far behind.”
The royal treatment kept rolling in Washington, D.C. where the nation literally rolled out a red carpet for their arrival. Peanut Butter and Jelly also got their very own suite at the Willard InterContinental Hotel before the ceremony.
While they may be in retirement, their celebrity status has only continued to grow. The turkeys were greeted with a welcome party at Purdue when they arrived on campus and they since have had many “appearances” around the state.
Their biggest was roughly a month spent at the Indiana State Fair over the summer. Fields and the Purdue team moved Peanut Butter’s and Jelly’s entire barn to the fairgrounds, so that they would feel at home.
Just about everyone who meets the turkeys wants to take a picture with them. That includes Jerome Adams, the former U.S. Surgeon General and Health Commissioner of Indiana.
“Even the actual celebrities think the turkeys are celebrities,” Fields said.
As exciting as it is to have the national pardoned turkeys hail from Indiana, they also help serve an important purpose: Education.
Fields said they help people get interested in farming and learn about livestock agriculture throughout the state and region in a way they might not otherwise. Indiana is the fourth-largest turkey producer in the country, no. 1 in duck production and second for number of eggs produced.
The celebrity fowl open the door for those conversations, he said.
Even though they will soon be passing on their title — this year’s pardon ceremony will be Monday, with turkeys from North Carolina — Peanut Butter and Jelly will keep their enclosure and luxurious lifestyle. Fields said he hopes they won’t be the last presidentially pardoned turkeys from Indiana.
Even as their reign as 2021's Presidentially Pardoned Turkeys comes to an end, Peanut Butter and Jelly will keep a few engagements throughout the year, as their health allows.
But their age is starting to show: Their beards, the black tuft of whiskers on their chest, continue to grow longer. Both turkeys are about a year and a half, and likely will live to be between four to five years old.
Despite their regal stature, they really are quite clumsy — in an endearing way, Ellison said — with large feet that resemble what a dinosaur’s feet might look like. They don’t move anywhere fast — but why would they want to, Fields added, they’ve got all they could want right here.
"It's their own little sanctuary," he said.
Call IndyStar reporter Sarah Bowman at 317-444-6129 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook: @IndyStarSarah. Connect with IndyStar’s environmental reporters: Join The Scrub on Facebook.
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This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Presidentially pardoned turkey's gobble up the good life at Purdue