Israelis Love Their Steaks on Independence Day...

But not the rest of the year: Local consumption is the lowest per capita of all the OECD nations

Barbecues are an integral part of the celebration of Independence Day in Israel, and supermarket chains reported a particularly successful holiday with regard to meat sales.

The largest chain, Super-Sol, said meat sales prior to Independence Day were 50% higher than in an average week. The company said it sold 150,000 kebabs alone in the run-up to the holiday, which began Monday night and ended yesterday evening.

The Kimat Hinam chain reported a 15% increase in sales of meat over last year's holiday. The company expects a similar jump in sales for Lag Ba'omer, later this month.

Sales of meat were higher at the Rami Levi chain as well, where 14,000 tons of meat went out the door. Tiv Ta'am supermarkets reported a 12% increase in holiday meat sales compared to last year and noted a trend toward the purchase of higher-quality cuts of meat.

Ironically, shortly before the Independence Day holiday, the Agriculture Ministry had released comparative data on beef consumption in Israel and other developed countries which showed that Israelis prefer chicken to beef - primarily because it is cheaper, but also because of its generally lower fat content.

Unsurprisingly, Argentina leads the developed world in the annual consumption of beef, the ministry said, at 54 kilograms per person. Australia comes next at 46 kilos, followed by the United States at 41.

Israelis, by contrast, consume only 17 kilograms of beef, the lowest among the countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which represents the world's developed economies. Israel also raises little cattle compared to other OECD countries, primarily because of the lack of grazing land.

The ministry also published guidelines for the purchase of various kinds of meat, recommending that consumers be sure the packaging features a veterinary inspection symbol. Fresh chicken should be pink and not red, and meat should not have an unusual odor. Fresh beef should be reddish and not shiny, and beef should be marbled with fat, making it juicier.

Dark edges are an indication that the beef is drying out. Meat should be defrosted in the refrigerator.

Tzafrir Ginsberg, of the Sheva group, which operates the Papagaio meat restaurant chain, said Israelis are showing an increased preference for fresh meat over frozen.