Every Day Is Thanksgiving for Israelis, Who Gobble Up More Turkey Than Anyone in the World

Israelis eat almost double the amount of turkey meat Americans do each year. Why's that, you ask?

File photo: A male turkey at an organic farm in Israel's north.
Tomer Applebaum

"Turkey Day" is upon us, during which North Americans will stuff their faces and the inside of large birds with gratitude. Serving the bird at Thanksgiving meals is so ubiquitous that some might be surprised to learn Israel leads the world as the largest consumer of turkey meat per capita.

Statistics from Israel's Ministry of Agriculture show Israelis consume around 13 kilos (28 lbs) of turkey a year, which is nearly double the 16.7 lbs eaten annually by the average American.

So what's with the turkey obsession, Israel? Well, multiple theories offer an explanation.

Pork, for Jewish dietary restrictions of Kashrut, is of course more absent from the protein pie than in other countries. In Israel's early days, another theory goes, importing and refrigerating beef and chicken proved to be too expensive, so processed and dried meats like salami and pastrami were eaten as a cheap source of protein.

Upon deciding that turkey meat was the right fit for such products, farmers began raising turkeys en masse. Today, nearly half of Israel's turkey production is exported to Europe.

Turkey "pastrama" continues to reign on Israeli supermarket shelves and as a home staple. And, of course, every Israeli craves a cheap, filling and delicious shawarma from the street corner once in a while. Most of the shawarma served in Israel is turkey meat.

Perhaps Israelis have simply taken to the taste over the years. And as a lean white-meat protein, it's certainly healthier than beef. So whether you're celebrating Thanksgiving in North America or in Israel, may you have a new fun-fact to divert from politics and happily gobble away.