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Lt. governor spares turkey from getting the ax

SALT LAKE CITY — Sir Featherbottoms' date with the headsman was stayed Monday as Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox pardoned the 41-pound tom turkey during a ceremony at the Capitol.

Although Cox joked that legally he had "no authority to pardon anyone or anything," that wasn't going to stop him from sparing Sir Featherbottoms, who will now live out his days at the Thanksgiving Point bird refuge.

The turkey, which was raised on Jason and Carlee Christensen's farm in Moroni, Sanpete County, was named via an online contest. The Christensens raise approximately 73,000 turkeys, as well as wheat and forage crops.

Matt Cook, president and CEO of Moroni-based Norbest, noted during Monday's ceremony that 45 family farms in central Utah are on track to produce 7 million turkeys next year. The firm also employs more than 500 people.

"If all of the turkey that we grow on family farms were converted into turkey sandwiches, we would produce about half a billion sandwiches," Cook said. “If it were in the form of Thanksgiving turkeys, Norbest would provide center of the plate for 7 million families. In total turkey consumption, Norbest would provide enough turkey for the total population of Utah, Idaho and Nevada."

Cox also noted the critical impact turkey farming has on Utah's economy, generating more than $75 million a year. He also noted that he's now raising his children on the family farm in Sanpete County, a farm that once raised turkeys, "although we're no longer in the business."

And while Sir Featherbottoms will live out his days at Thanksgiving Point, Cox pointed out that some of his siblings won't be quite as lucky, as they'll be the main course in many homes on Thanksgiving Day.

And as many Utahns celebrate the abundance they have, Cox urged the state's residents to "remember those who maybe aren't quite as fortunate and take the time to serve others and reach out to them."

Cox, along with Gov. Gary Herbert, is scheduled to serve Thanksgiving dinner Wednesday at the Salt Lake Rescue Mission.

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Turkey tidbits

• The Utah turkey industry generates more than $75 million a year for the Utah economy.

• There are 45 family farms that raise the 5 million birds that are harvested each year.

• The Norbest turkey company employs more than 500 people.

• The average Utahn consumes 17 pounds of turkey per year.

Source: Utah Department of Agriculture and Food