Entries in Turkey (7)


DA: Butterball Tipped Off About Turkey Farm Raid

Mercy for Animals(RALEIGH, N.C.) -- Days before a Butterball turkey farm was raided by police because of allegations of animal abuse, the company had been tipped off that it was under investigation, ABC News has learned. That leak, according to officials, came from a veterinarian at a government agency charged with overseeing the health of Butterball's birds.

Last month, officials in Hoke County, North Carolina raided the Butterball facility, spurred by hidden camera video obtained by the animal rights group Mercy for Animals. A Mercy for Animals activist had worked undercover at the farm for three weeks and documented what the group called, "acts of violence and severe neglect" on turkeys housed there. In the video, workers can be seen kicking and stomping on turkeys, as well as dragging them by their wings and necks. The video also shows injured birds with open wounds and exposed flesh.

The video prompted an investigation by the Hoke County District Attorney, and in a Dec. 28 raid by the Hoke County Sheriff's Department, officials inspected 2,800 turkeys, seizing 28 and euthanizing four. The investigation is ongoing and no criminal charges have been filed.

But now phone records of calls between Butterball and government officials may raise questions about the relationship between the nation's largest turkey producer and a regulatory agency that is supposed to oversee it. ABC News has obtained a copy of a search warrant for records of phone calls between a veterinarian at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and a veterinarian for Butterball.

According to the documents, a prosecutor in the Hoke County D.A.'s office had contacted the N.C. Department of Agriculture prior to the December raid to inquire if the office wanted to assist with the inspection of the turkeys during the action. One of the responsibilities of the Department of Agriculture is to inspect livestock to ensure the health of animals.

In addition, the prosecutor alleged in the search warrant that conversations about the pending raid were supposed to be "treated as confidential, and should not be disclosed." Instead, officials charge, an employee there -- the Director of Animal Health Programs -- contacted a veterinarian employed by Butterball. Upon questioning by prosecutors, documents indicate, the government employee allegedly first denied knowing about the investigation until the raid, then admitted she had called the Butterball doctor prior to the raid, "and informed him she had heard there was an investigation into a Butterball farm in Hoke County."

The search warrant seizes phone records between Butterball and the N.C. Department of Agriculture from five days before the raid until late last week.

"It is deeply troubling," said Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals, "that a governmental agency that is entrusted with monitoring and overseeing agriculture and food production is so corrupt that it's in bed with the very corporate interests that were documented abusing and neglecting animals. The fox apparently is guarding the henhouse."

In a statement, the N.C. Dept. of Agriculture said the agency was, "cooperating with law enforcement agencies in Hoke County in their investigation of whether any of our employees may have inappropriately shared information about an animal cruelty investigation at a turkey farm. Once the investigation is complete, we will take appropriate action based on the facts."

Butterball, which accounts for 20 percent of total turkey production in the U.S., has said it was "shocked" by the undercover video, is taking the animal cruelty investigation seriously, and has a "zero tolerance policy for any mistreatment of our birds." The company said that as a result of an internal investigation, it is evaluating its animal welfare policies, and has fired "several associates for failure to follow Butterball animal care and well-being policies."

"We are taking steps to help ensure that all new and existing associates have a clear understanding of our animal well-being policies," said Rod Brenneman, president and CEO of Butterball. "In addition to requiring all associates to sign an animal well-being agreement to report abuse immediately, we are performing an intense review across all company operations."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Pardons Turkeys ‘Liberty’ and ‘Peace’

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- It’s official. Turkeys “Liberty” and “Peace” are spared from the Thanksgiving table.

President Obama stepped out onto the North Portico today holding hands with daughters Sasha and Malia to pardon two birds designated National Thanksgiving Turkeys, a presidential ritual performed annually for the past 64 years.

Thanksgiving is “one of the best days of the year to be an American,” Obama said. “But it’s also one of the worst days to be a turkey.”

Wandering around and looking confused on the stage to Obama’s right was the gobbler “Liberty.” His alternate “Peace” was inside and not to be seen.

The president kidded his audience and the media that Wednesday’s ceremony was part of his campaign to take actions that don’t require congressional approval.

“Well, here’s another one,” he said, “we can’t wait to pardon these turkeys.”

His campaign slogan is “We Can’t Wait.”

Both of the 19-week-old, 45-pound turkeys hail from Willmar, Minn. The names for the birds were chosen from more than 100 submissions to the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association’s website that highlighted the National Thanksgiving Turkey, according to the White House.

The president expressed thanks to all men and women serving in the U.S. military, and encouraged Americans to take time to reflect on their blessings and offer help to those in need.

It’s important to, “be grateful for what we have, be mindful of those who have less,” Obama said.

He and the first family will participate in a service project in Washington, D.C., later Wednesday.

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Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama to Issue Pardons to Two Lucky Turkeys

iStockphoto/Thinkstock (file photo)(WASHINGTON) -- Liberty and Peace will become the most envied turkeys in America on Wednesday when President Obama grants them pardon, thus saving them from the dreadful yet delicious fate of the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Both 19-week-old, 45-pound turkeys from Willmar, Minn., will be pardoned by the president in a White House ceremony Wednesday morning.  According to the White House, the names for Liberty and its alternate Peace were chosen from over 100 submissions to the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association’s website that highlighted the National Thanksgiving Turkey.

Following the pardoning, the birds will be given their freedom at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate.  Before taking up residence in a custom-made enclosure at Mount Vernon’s livestock facility, the National Thanksgiving Turkey will be on display for visitors during “Christmas at Mount Vernon,” a special program that runs through Jan. 6.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Expensive Turkey Day: Travel and Food Costs Up from Last Year

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With 42 million Americans planning to travel this week for the Thanksgiving holiday, many are in for a big surprise, because the cost of celebrating Turkey Day has shot up.

The typical family looking to travel this holiday season will see hikes in airfares, gasoline and even the traditional Thanksgiving bird.

For the family that thinks they’ll save a bundle by driving to the family feast, taking the car might be the wrong choice -- gas prices have risen about 50 cents per gallon from last year’s rates.

And flying doesn't fare much better -- airfares are up more than 10 percent from last year.

Jeanenne Tornatore, senior editor for, said the smart action to take -- as usual -- is to book in advance.

“Typically, as you get closer to the holiday period, the travel prices do increase, because it is such a compact travel weekend and travelers are going to be traveling over such a short period,” she said.

Those looking to stay at a hotel will be hit too, with hotel prices up nearly 5 percent from 2010's prices.

But even if you choose to avoid traveling, you still won't escape added expenses.  The Farm Bureau estimates the cost of the classic Thanksgiving dinner is up 13 percent from last year.  The cost of a turkey is now up $3, pumpkin pie is up 41 cents and stuffing is up 24 cents.

The reason being: rising fuel prices. The cost of gasoline ultimately affects everything that gets transported to store shelves.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Turkey Plant May Be Salmonella Link

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- According to The New York Times, federal officials said on Tuesday that they were investigating an apparently link between ground turkey meat and a nationwide outbreak of salmonella that has so far killed one person and sickened at least 76 more in 26 states.

Although no meat has been recalled, federal officials have said that evidence found points to a single ground turkey factory. They have declined to identify it or the company involved, but the meat processor Cargill said that it had been contacted by the Agriculture Department and was asked to provide information as part of the ongoing investigation.

 “We are cooperating with the agency’s ongoing investigation into the source of the illnesses,” Mike Martin, a Cargill spokesman, said in an e-mail message.

Food safety advocates said the outbreak was particularly alarming because it involved a strain of salmonella that is resistant to antibiotics.

U.S.D.A. spokesman Neil Gaffney said in an e-mail that so far, there was not enough evidence that “conclusively links these illnesses to any specific product or establishment. Without specific enough data, it would not be appropriate to issue a recall notice.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Thanksgiving Without Turkey? Down Economy Means Fewer Donations

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- No law says that you have to have turkey on Thanksgiving, but just try to imagine the holiday without it.

With less than a week before Thanksgiving, the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions surveyed 25 of its members in some of the country's biggest cities. The association found that more than half of those missions -- including ones in Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Detroit and Seattle -- have seen a "major drop" in turkey donations this year.

The missions "will not be able to provide food boxes the way they have done in the past unless there is a sudden increase in turkey donations in the next couple of days," association president John Ashmen told ABC News.

ABC News called the CEO of Butterball, Keith Shoemaker, to see if they could help. The company gives away thousands of turkeys every year, but now inventory is way down.

"I just don't have a lot of turkeys sitting anywhere in a bag to give someone at this point," Shoemaker said.

Charities and food banks nationwide also report donations have plummeted. They blame empty freezers on the poor economy and higher turkey prices.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Thanksgiving Turkey Shortage for Recession-Hit Families

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DENVER) -- From California to Connecticut, food banks and charities nationwide report that donations of frozen turkeys -- the cornerstone of a traditional Thanksgiving meal -- have fallen dramatically this holiday season.

"This year has been really tough," said Denver Rescue Mission's Greta Walker. "We started the turkey drive on November 1 and about ten days into it, we had zero turkeys. And I started to get really worried."

As of late Sunday, the mission was still 2,000 turkeys short of its goal.

"We know that people have been struggling with the economy," said Walker. "We can tell with our numbers every day."

Walker says the turkey shortage ripples out to smaller charities around the Denver area. That's because each year, the Denver Rescue Mission provides 5,000 turkeys to about 80 other charities and organizations including Volunteers of America.

Last year the Colorado branch of Volunteers of America asked the Denver Rescue Mission for 200 turkeys. Due to a growing need this year, they're now asking for 1,000 frozen birds.

"Across the board, need is going up and people are tightening their wallets," said Allison Kuthy of Volunteers of America. "It gets tough to do our jobs."

The fall in turkey donations this year is also compounded by a rise in turkey prices.

"Retail prices will be up, on average, about 20 percent this year," said Thomas Elam of Indiana-based FarmEcon, an agricultural industry consulting firm.

Elam blames rising costs on a reduction in turkey supply and production this year along with a steep jump in the price of corn and soybeans farmers feed growing birds. Now, higher prices at the supermarket may be causing fewer people to buy an extra turkey to donate.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio