The presidential pardoning of one lucky turkey is a fairly modern practice. In 1989, George H.W. Bush became the first president to pardon a turkey. Before then, turkeys were presented to the president and consumed by the president.
The concept of a turkey pardoning was first mentioned by president Regan as a joke, but H.W. Bush made it all possible with the following words: “This fine Tom turkey, has been granted a presidential pardon as of right now.”
Turkeys selected for early retirement get to spend the rest of their days at Disneyland—never having to worry about being on anyone’s plate EVER AGAIN.