ADDL Provides Pivotal Testing for Presidentially Pardoned Turkeys at Holiday Time

Friday, December 3, 2021

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Drs. Hendrix, Bowen, and Lossie stand behind the two turkeys as a crowd gathers around
Peanut Butter and Jelly, the Broad Breasted White turkeys pardoned by President Joe Biden, are the center of attention as Drs. Kenitra Hendrix, Craig Bowen and Geoffrey Lossie of the ADDL get in on a photo op during an official welcoming for the turkeys on Purdue’s Memorial Mall November 29 (Photo by Tom Campbell).

When the turkeys that had received the official presidential pardon at the White House before Thanksgiving arrived at Purdue University to settle in to their new post-pardon residence this week, they had the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (ADDL) to thank for being able to safely travel to the pardoning ceremony.  The two turkeys, named Peanut Butter and Jelly, posed for photo ops Monday (November 29) on Purdue University’s Memorial Mall in front of the Boilermaker Special.

Purdue University’s Department of Animal Sciences in the College of Agriculture is providing a home and care for the National Thanksgiving Turkeys following the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation at the White House. The turkeys will live at Purdue’s Animal Science Research and Education Center, where they will reside in a separate enclosed indoor setting with access to a shaded grassy area.

There’s also another Purdue angle to the story that ties in directly with the College of Veterinary Medicine. “The ADDL performed the required testing for the Presidential Turkeys to travel out of state,” said Dr. Kenitra Hendrix, ADDL director and clinical associate professor of veterinary diagnostic microbiology in the Department of Comparative Pathobiology.  The turkeys were raised under the supervision of Phil Seger, 2021 National Turkey Federation chairman, and by southern Indiana turkey producer Andrea Welp, in cooperation with Farbest Farms.

“We are very pleased to be the diagnostic lab of the 2021 Presidential Turkeys,” said Dr. Craig Bowen, assistant director of the ADDL. “The ADDL plays a vital role in protecting the health and safety of Indiana’s significant poultry industry, and so the testing is something we do all the time to support poultry producers like Farbest Farms.” 

turkeys pictured standing together in the grass
Peanut Butter and Jelly, the 2021 Presidential Turkeys, will reside at the Purdue University Animal Science Research and Education Center.

Dr. Geoffrey Lossie, avian diagnostician at the ADDL and clinical assistant professor of pathology in the College of Veterinary Medicine, said the tests performed included the Avian Influenza PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test and testing for Newcastle Disease, a contagious viral disease affecting the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of birds and poultry. “We were honored to be able to perform these important tests for these special Thanksgiving birds and give them the clean bill of health they needed to be able to receive their presidential pardon,” Dr. Lossie said.

Indiana is the fourth largest turkey producing state in the nation and ranks first in duck production and second in egg production. The poultry industry contributes more than $12 billion in total economic activity to Indiana and employs more than 12,000 people.

“I think it’s great that there’s a strong connection between Purdue University and the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation at the White House, given the prominence of Indiana’s poultry industry,” said Dr. Hendrix.  “Purdue’s involvement in this tradition shines a spotlight on the importance of the testing we do to ensure the health and safety of the flocks of Indiana’s poultry producers.”

Purdue Agriculture’s Department of Animal Sciences includes a nationally recognized poultry program, with experts in nutrition, health, education, behavioral neuroendocrinology, management, behavior, and animal welfare. “Although turkeys are an important American cultural tradition, most people do not know much about turkey production and management, so this is an amazing chance for us to increase awareness and knowledge of turkeys’ behavior, personalities, and welfare,” said Dr. Marisa Erasmus, assistant professor of animal sciences. Another focus will be educating students on more in-depth poultry care. “We will be highlighting them in some of our teaching programs and when we have events, such as the annual Spring Fest,” Dr. Erasmus said.

At the welcome home event for the two presidentially pardoned Broad Breasted White turkeys, Purdue students, staff, and faculty enjoyed getting photos with the University’s newest resident celebrities.

Writer(s): Jillian Ellison, Purdue University College of Agriculture, and Kevin Doerr |

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