ST. PAUL (AP) — Gov. Mark Dayton has given a Minnesota turkey its walking papers just in time for Thanksgiving.

Dayton "pardoned" a Minnesota-grown turkey on Tuesday at a brief ceremony in his office. It's an annual tradition in a state that produces 46 million turkeys a year, making it the nation's leading provider.

This year's turkey is from Melrose. The big bird's pardon is ceremonial, and the president of the Minnesota Turkey Growers wouldn't promise the creature won't still be a main dish at some point. That organization's membership has donated 11,000 pounds of turkey meat to food shelves this year.

Dayton says he's celebrating Thanksgiving on Wednesday with his sons. On the holiday itself, he plans to spend the morning helping serve food to people in need at a Minneapolis church.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.