Consumer Nation

New American Tradition: Going Kosher for Thanksgiving

Robert Linton | E | Getty Images

The Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving with Native Americans gave thanks to a Higher Authority.

They're not the only ones.

Kosher turkeys are slowly taking a larger share of the Thanksgiving market.

Just as Hebrew National ("We answer to a higher authority") has convinced many non-Jews to buy kosher hot dogs, companies like Empire Kosher are seeing more customers who don't keep kosher buying kosher poultry. Reasons include the enhanced flavor of the salted birds and a belief that the special supervision and handling required under kosher dietary law mean a better quality product.

"More than 50 percent of Empire Kosher's Thanksgiving turkey volume is from non-kosher consumers," company spokesman Elie Rosenfeld told CNBC.

(Read More: Where Pilgrims Landed, Thanksgiving Is Kept at Table, Not Mall.)

For those who like to brine turkeys to lock in moisture and add flavor, kosher turkeys already do the job for you. Plus, Rosenfeld said some consumers like the idea that every turkey must be killed by hand by a rabbi in a method meant to reduce an animal's suffering.

Empire has 60 trained rabbis on staff at its plant in Mifflintown, Pa., one-tenth of the company's workforce.

Americans have been switching to poultry this fall as beef prices have boomed, a fact borne out by Tyson Foods' earnings this week. Tyson poultry profits rose even as feed costs shot up due to the drought.

(Read More: Thanksgiving Travel Surge Hits American Roads.)

Rosenfeld said kosher turkeys already cost more due to their special processing. Empire Kosher said it takes over three hours to process a kosher bird, compared to only one hour at a non-kosher plant.

Feed accounts for nearly a third of all costs. "All our birds are all-vegetarian fed." Yet Empire has only passed some of those costs along to stay competitive, and volume is up 12 percent from a year ago.

(Read More: .)

Finally, here's a shocker. Going kosher may actually be the true Thanksgiving tradition!

According to, "the world's largest Jewish content website," the REAL first Thanksgiving wasn't between the Pilgrims and Native Americans in 1621, but three years earlier in the Catskills, "according to the Academy of Obscure Jewish History".

In a hilarious case of revisionist history, the academy's "research" discovered the hidden history of how the two ... tribes ... came together for a feast to give thanks. "The Ongepatsht Indians would be invited and the Jews briefly considered having the affair catered before finally deciding to do it all themselves to save money."


-By Jane Wells, CNBC Reporter

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