The Unusual Thanksgiving Travel Story Behind This Butterball Turkey

On November 23, Politico correspondent Meridith McGraw was passing through security at Reagan National Airport in Virginia. Everything seemed status quo; travelers put their purses and luggage on the belt and took out their laptops to be placed in plastic bins. Then McGraw turned to see something she just hadn't quite expected: a whole turkey, still in its wrapper and with netting around it, passing along through the X-ray conveyor belt. 

"I just started cracking up, because you see all these ordinary items ... [a]nd then there was a big fat turkey," McGraw said to The Washington Post. Luckily for America and social media, McGraw ended up on the same Southwest flight as the woman with the turkey and took to Twitter to chronicle the bird's journey to Austin, Texas.

The turkey, which flew in the overhead compartment, was reported to be a Butterball. Southwest Airlines commented on McGraw's tweet chain, stating, "Happy to welcome you, your fellow Travelers, and Mr. Butterball himself onboard this afternoon! Thanks for sharing in the holiday fun & travels with us, Meridith!"

Would you be a turkey to travel with a turkey?

This situation may be humorous. However, it begs the question: Are you allowed to travel with a turkey, and is it safe? The Washington Post interviewed TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein, who assured them that it is indeed permissible to travel with a turkey or any solid food. "We see plenty of turkeys traveling this time of year," Farbstein said, although she went on to recommend traveling with a frozen turkey as opposed to a fresh one and to carry it in a cooler. According to the TSA's guidelines when it comes to traveling with food, anything solid, such as a pie or casserole, is allowed as a carry-on, while anything liquid, such as gravy or cranberry sauce, should be checked. These guidelines also apply to traveling with leftovers.

As far as safety goes, the USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service cautioned travelers against flying with a turkey. "USDA is turning over in its gravy over here! Funny? Yes. Safe? NO! Ditch that foul fowl and buy yourself a fresh turkey in Austin," the organization commented in response to McGraw's thread.

One commenter had one of the funniest (and perhaps best) pieces of advice for the turkey-toting traveler: Next time, choose to bring a paper good. "Could have signed up to bring paper plates, but nooooooo," they wrote.