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The Halachic Tale of Three American Birds: Turkey, Prairie Chicken, and Muscovy Duck

By: Rabbi Ari Z. Zivotofsky, Ph.D. and Zohar Amar, Ph.D.

This article first appeared in The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society (Succot 5764/Fall 2003, vol 46, pages 81-104). Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

Copyright © 2003 The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society


Introduction

When European settlers arrived on the American shores in the 15th century they found a whole new world of flora and fauna that was cultivated and domesticated by the Native Americans. Some of these plants and animals immediately found favor in their eyes as sources of food. They too began raising them and in many cases brought them back to Europe.1 The Jews, who rapidly followed on the heels of the other Europeans to American shores, were also greeted by this new display of nature. They not only needed to learn to cultivate, prepare, and enjoy these new delicacies, but they were also confronted with halachic questions. The many questions they faced ranged in degree of severity and difficulty of resolution. For example, the question of the kosher status of the American bison was relatively easy. Whether New World produce is considered kitniyot (and prohibited to Ashkenazim on Pesach) was debated years ago regarding the potato2 and is currently under discussion about quinoa. The answer seems to be negative for both.3 What blessing to make on the New World treat chocolate was also decided relatively quickly.4

Questions regarding the kashrut of previously unknown species of birds proved to be much more challenging, and some have remained unresolved to this day.5 The kosher status of birds is a much more complex issue than that of animals and fish. The Torah (Lev. 11:1-27 and Deut. 14:3-20) specifies identifying features to indicate whether a particular animal species is kosher. Within the mammalian quadruped category, an animal is defined as kosher if it both chews its cud and has fully split hooves. A sea creature is deemed kosher if it is a fish (Aruch Hashulchan 83:5-11) and has at least one fin and one scale (Lev. 11:9-10; Deut. 14:9-10) that are visible to the naked eye.

Birds are categorically different.6 The Torah offers no identifying features to distinguish kosher from non-kosher species. It simply provides a listing (Lev. 11:13-19 and Deut. 14:11-18) of the 24 species7 of birds that are not kosher (Chullin 63b). By inference, the vast number of other bird species are kosher.8 Today, when the 24 non-kosher species can no longer be accurately identified, things are quite a bit more complicated.

Although the Torah did not provide physical indicators by which to identify kosher fowl, the rabbis provided four identifying features to help categorize birds. The Mishnah (Chullin 3:6 [59a]) states: "every bird that is 1) dores ("a predator") is not kosher.9 Every bird that has 2) an extra toe,10 3) a zefek (crop, the biblical more'eh , e.g. Lev. 1:16), and 4) a korkuvan (gizzard, "pupik" in Yiddish) whose inner lining can be peeled, is kosher."

These seemingly simple rules were the source of ongoing and acrimonious debate throughout the ages,11 to the point that a 19th century authority wrote: "In order to fully explain the identification of kosher birds would take a small booklet of its own" (Minchat Chinuch , mitzvah 157). And some poskim (decisors) did precisely that. Following responsum YD:74, Chatam Sofer (Rabbi Moses Sofer; 1762-1839) wrote several pages of explanation of the subject, followed by a note that the rest of his thoughts on this topic are in a separate monograph. The Beit Yitzchak at the beginning of YD 1:106 refers to three monographs that others had written on the subject. Similarly, Rabbi Yonatan Eibschitz wrote a monograph, P'nei Nesher , on the kashrut of birds.

With all the disagreement and confusion, the final halacha follows Rashi (Chullin 62a), who, based on the incident of the tarnegulsa d'agma in which people ate a non-kosher bird as a consequence of applying physical characteristics as a criterion, ruled that birds may only be eaten based on a mesorah - oral tradition. The Shulchan Aruch (YD 82:3), and even more definitively, the Ramo (ibid), ruled that the only applicable principle is that "no bird should be eaten unless there is a mesorah that it is a kosher species." And this is where the problem for New World birds arises - there simply cannot be an ancient continuous unbroken tradition regarding a New World bird.12 The three birds discussed in this paper, the turkey, the praire chicken, and the muscovy duck, have had quite different relationships with the kosher community.


Turkey

The Turkey13 has gained near universal kosher acceptance. According to the National Turkey Federation,14 Israel leads the world in turkey consumption. At a whopping 28.8 pounds per capita annual consumption in 2001, Israelis consumed considerably more turkey than the second largest consumers, Americans, who consumed approximately 17.5 pounds per capita annually. There is no question today that turkey, the quintessential New World species which Benjamin Franklin proposed as the national bird of the United States because it is "a true original native of America" and does not have the "bad moral character" of the bald eagle, has been universally accepted as a kosher species.15 What is even more interesting and surprising is that there were apparently no questions raised about the turkey in the period immediately following its introduction into Europe. This bird arrived from the New World sans a mesorah and yet seems to have made a seamless entry into the kosher kitchen. When the question was finally discussed, most of the responsa seem to be post-facto. They were not coming to determine the turkey's status, but rather they were attempting to unravel the seeming inconsistency of accepting the requirement for a mesorah on the one hand and the fact that turkey was well-accepted as kosher on the other hand. In other instances, the accepted kosher status of turkey was used as part of an analysis of another bird question. Jews have probably been eating turkey for as long as their non-Jewish neighbors, since the early 16th century. Yet the reason for its acceptability does not seem to have been discussed until the late 18th century, at which time it became a controversial issue. Even at that time the issue may only have been raised because of the controversy that was then brewing in Europe regarding the status of several other birds.

When finally queried, the vast majority of halachic authorities accepted the turkey as kosher. However, a plethora of different reasons, most not fully satisfactory, were ultimately suggested. These include: There was an Indian mesorah; there is a mesorah of unknown origin; there is no need for a mesorah since it has 3 physical signs and we reject the Ramo; there is no need for a mesorah because it has all four signs and its dores status can be ascertained because it has been observed longer than 12 months; it is in the same broad category as chicken; there is a Sephardic mesorah; it was accepted pre-Ramo; or it hybridizes with known kosher species.


Praire chicken

The praire chicken is a brown mottled North American grouse of western prairies, sometimes called the prairie grouse or prairie fowl. The name usually refers to one of two birds, Tympanuchus cupido or T. pallidicinctus of the grouse family, that are found in western North America and have deep-chested bodies and mottled brownish plumage. Today T. cupido is sometimes referred to as T. Americanus . There are three subspecies: the Greater Prairie chicken proper (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus ), the Heath hen (Tympanuchus cupido cupido )16 , and the Attwaters Prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido attwateri ). The Greater Prairie chicken proper is blackish-brown, with light tawny color above and white brown barring underneath, and long erectile feathers on the side of the neck. The Greater Prairie chicken is a ground dweller whose diet consists of tree buds and grains and they can easily be kept in captivity. They are about 47cm long and weigh 800g. They belong to the order Galliformes and the family Phasiandae, as do chicken and turkey. There were at one time millions of all three subspecies; today they are all either extinct or endangered.

Widespread hunting and eating of these birds in the midwestern U.S. from the mid 19th to the early 20th century brought them to the precipice of extinction. For example, for nearly a century it was a staple in the Chicago area. Despite its widespread consumption, easy capture, and ease of captive breeding, I have found no evidence, despite extensive searching, that there were any halachic queries asked regarding its status, and I have found no evidence that it was ever eaten as kosher. This, despite the large Jewish populations in some of the regions where it was consumed.


Muscovy duck

The most interesting New World species, from the perspective of its halachic story, is the muscovy duck. It is generally accepted that domestic ducks are derived from the wild mallard (Anas platyrhynchos ; order Anseriformes, family Anatidae).17 There are seven recognized subspecies. The most prominent breed (in the US and Israel) is the Pekin breed, introduced to the West from China in the late 19th century. The common mallard A.p.platyrhynchos is likely the sole progenitor of the domestic form.18

There is only one exception, the most recently domesticated of waterfowl species, the muscovy duck, also known as barbarie duck.19 It is native to Mexico, Central America, and most of South America. The male weighs 2-4 kg and the female 1-1.5 Kg. It is generally accepted that they were domesticated in pre-Columbian South America, where they were found in the very early 16th century by the Spaniards. There appears to have been a very early and rapid diffusion into the Old World. They were so widely diffused so early that there are even theories that they were introduced into Africa in the pre-Columbian period by trans-Atlantic Arab traders. While this theory is generally rejected,20 the fact of their rapid spread is unchallenged.

The early Jewish settlers in the southern U.S. began eating muscovy duck. The muscovy has a peelable gizzard, an "extra toe", webbed feet, and a wide beak, all indicating that it is kosher. It does not have a standard crop, but has the same psuedo-crop21 found in other ducks and geese. Thus, these Jewish settlers treated it as kosher.

In 1860 Rabbi Yissachar Dov (Bernard) Illowy (1814-1871),22 in possession of smicha (rabbinic ordination) from the Chatam Sofer and his Pressburg Yeshiva and a Ph.D. from the University of Budapest, arrived as the new rabbi in New Orleans, and declared that the muscovy duck could not possibly be treated as a kosher species because there could be no mesorah for it.23

In a letter24 written in beautiful biblical, poetic Hebrew Rabbi Illoway first presented the situation of Jewish life in the United States in general and in New Orleans in particular, and then explained his question regarding the muscovy duck. He outlined the history of his involvement and then presented the question. The letter was sent from New Orleans on Wednesday of Parshat Bechukotai, 5622 [May 14, 1862] and addressed to Chief Rabbi Dr. Nathan Adler of London and Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch of Germany. Almost every line in the first section is a paraphrase or a play on a biblical verse, making it almost futile to attempt its translation.

Rabbi Illoway relates that at the time it was almost 8 months that he had served as rav of Shaarei Chesed in New Orleans, and in that period he had been blessed with success. He proudly declares that after his first sermon forty important merchants began closing their businesses on shabbat and more than ten families that previously ate non-kosher fully kashered their houses such that even the most stringent person could eat there. He then relates that on his third day in town he found that his friend was raising for food a strange looking bird known as the muscovy duck. He was unable to trace a valid mesorah (tradition) that permitted this bird and he thus ordered that it no longer be eaten and he so preached in the synagogue. Some of the congregants began to object to this rabbinic decree and claimed that a mesorah existed from the previous chazan, as well as in the cities of Charleston, S.C. and Jamaica. Rabbi Illowy was not impressed. He responded that those communities had never had a reputable rabbi, and as far as the chazan, Rabbi Illoway challenged his trustworthiness by stating that he used to run a store that sold pork on shabbat. And, he rightly states, how could there have been a mesorah, which is by definition multi-generational, if these are New World birds. He further argues, incorrectly,25 that the eggs of the muscovy have the signs of non-kosher eggs (round and greenish - see Chullin 64a). Rabbi Illowy therefore maintained his ban, but promised to send the question to European experts for adjudication, and thus sent the letter to Rabbis Hirsch and Adler. Rabbi Hirsch answered from Frankfurt in a short letter on erev shabbat Re'eh, 5622 [Aug. 22, 1862]. He agreed with Rabbi Illowy that a mesorah from reliable people is required and did not exist. In this case in particular, he continued, the eggs definitively prove the muscovy are non-kosher and in such a case, even a mesorah would not help. Rabbi Adler wrote an even shorter letter from London on the 4th day of Av 5622 [July 31, 1862]. He apologized for the delay but he had been at the beach for several weeks. He writes that he normally would refrain from answering without hearing both sides. But in this case he investigated and found that in London the muscovy was treated as non-kosher because of a lack of mesorah. Thus, both of those authorities concurred with Rabbi Illowy's opinion in banning the consumption of the muscovy.

It is interesting to note that despite the popularity of muscovy duck in Europe, there are no known responsa or halachic discussions about them before Rabbi Illoway's responsa. This may be due to the facts that they have been known by a wide variety of names, their origin was a source of confusion, they were frequently grouped with domestic ducks, and that even today they are often overlooked as a separate species.

Several decades later another European transplant to US shores seems to have addressed the same issue. Rabbi Leeber Cohen (born ca. 1874) studied in one of the great mussar yeshivot near Kiev and then served as a rav in the town of Kazen near Kiev from 1896-1911 before moving to the US.26 Upon taking a job as rabbi in Memphis, TN, he discovered two things: First, he was receiving many queries about a new kind of goose about which he had also answered several questions in Europe, and second, that a way to advance in the US is to publish.27 With that in mind, in 1916 he published Chiddushei Chaviva , the first half of which is devoted to the question of the new goose that was already being eaten in some areas. Based on his description of the bird, he seems to have been discussing the muscovy duck. Following a masterful analysis of the subject of which birds are kosher and what evidence may be relied upon, he concludes that based on the "egg signs" discussed in the Talmud, the bird under discussion was permitted.28

In the US, questions about the muscovy persisted. Rav Gedalia Schwartz, Av Beit Din of the RCA and of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, reports29 that in the 1950s while he was a rav in Providence, RI he was asked about the kashrut of the muscovy duck and he prohibited it.

The status of the muscovy duck was also under discussion in other areas of the world beyond its native U.S. and Mexico. Rav Aharon Halevi Goldman,30 a rav and shochet in Moisville, Argentina, discussed the issue at length.31 He first raised the issue in the journal Yalkut Yosef in 1906, 15 years after his arrival in Argentina. At that point he received contradictory reports regarding a mesorah on it and thus solicited assistance. He followed that with several other submissions and the following year concluded to permit the muscovy based on several points. He further reports that the Netziv had permitted it [see below], as had Rav Naftali Adler, av bet din of London, and the Divrei Malkiel in letters to him.

Concurrently, another Argentinean rabbi and shochet was also fighting for the kashrut of the muscovy duck. Rav Yosef Aharon Taran devoted the first section of his Zichron Yosef (Jerusalem, 5684 [1924]) to rebutting those who sought to prohibit it despite Rav Goldman’s earlier permissive ruling. In an effort to strengthen their position, those who sought to ban it, sent a pair of birds to Yerushalayim to have Rav Shmuel Salant (1816-1909), the av beit din, rule on it. The male bird died en route but the female successfully completed the lengthy journey. Rav Salant initially refrained from ruling on the matter due to his advanced age, and requested that Rav Chaim Berlin who was then visiting the city rule on the matter. When Rav Berlin was fed all manner of fiction, such as that the bird breeds with snakes, he refused to rule and returned the question to Rav Salant. Rav Salant immediately ordered his shochet to slaughter the bird and on erev Pesach a letter was promptly dispatched to Argentina stating that the bird had been eaten following Rav Salant’s ruling. Rav Shmuel Salant committed his opinion to writing in a responsum dated 25 Kislev 5668 (1908). Rav Taran publicized in his book that letter as well as several other permissive rulings from European rabbis, including one from Rav Naftali (Herman) Adler (1839-1911), chief rabbi of the British empire and son of former Chief Rabbi Nathan Adler (1803-1890) who had prohibited it years earlier.

Rabbi Israel Meir Levinger32 presents some interesting evidence from Europe and Israel. Based on the description of the bird under discussion, it appears that the Meshiv Davar (2:22)33 was discussing the muscovy duck. He reports that there were some locations where it was eaten as a kosher duck, while at the same time other people were arguing against it being considered kosher because of the differences between this duck and the common duck. The Netziv notes that had he been asked ab initio he would have hesitated to permit its consumption because it differs from the standard duck and should therefore require its own mesorah. However, since it was then already widely eaten as kosher, it should not be prohibited without definitive evidence that it is indeed a non-kosher species, evidence that did not exist.

Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank (1879-1960; Har Tzvi YD:75) reports in 1954 that 45 years earlier (i.e. 1909) an Argentinean Jew had brought a muscovy to Yerushalayim to ask about its kashrut and was told that it was kosher. Nonetheless, in 1954 Rav Frank only permitted those who already ate it to continue eating it and did not want to introduce it amongst those who did not eat it. His ruling notwithstanding, during the period of great economic difficulty in Israel (5709-5714/1949-1954), the muscovy was consumed in large numbers because it is able to be raised on kitchen scraps.

Rav Levinger reports that as of his writing the muscovy duck was treated as kosher in Israel based on an assortment of rulings. A rav in Zichron Yaakov reported to Rav Levinger that Rav Frank had permitted it to him in 5692 or 5693 (ca. 1932) and Rav Levinger was told by a shochet in Tiberias that he had been told by Rav Yaakov Moshe Charlap (1883-1951; a disciple and confidant of Chief Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook; see EJ 7:1343-1344) that it was a kosher bird.

The Avnei Nezer (YD:1:75) raises an important relevant point. Just like there cannot be a positive mesorah on a New World bird, so too there cannot be a negative one. Therefore, if it were possible to "establish" a mesorah it clearly would not be contradicting a negative mesorah, and would be acceptable. The Avnei Nezer then proceeds to do just that, and permitted what may have been the muscovy duck based on the hybridization principle discussed below.34

Rav Amitai Ben David, author of the important work Sichat Chullin , wrote (19 Shvat 5761) a long letter to Rav Naftali Weinberger that is appended to R. Weinberger's book Shaleach Tishalach (5761, Jerusalem, p. 169-187) in which he details the kosher birds. He observes (p. 180) that the muscovy had been given a defacto OK by the Netziv and the Avnei Nezer because it was already being eaten. In addition he states that he personally received a mesorah on the muscovy from his teacher who taught him shechita, the well-known Rav Chochaima.35


Hybridization

Up to this point the universally agreed upon need for a mesorah in order to deem a bird species kosher has been discussed. However, there may be a way around this requirement. The Talmud (Bechorot 7a) mentions a rule known as the "hybridization principle." This principle states that kosher species cannot mate with non-kosher species; hence, the fact that a suspect species can interbreed with a known kosher species confirms the kosher status of the unknown species. In the Talmud it is not explicitly stated if this principle applies only to animals or to birds as well. Many authorities have been willing to rely on the hybridization principle to rule that a bird species is kosher even in the absence of a mesorah. Among them are: Chatam Sofer (Yoreh De`ah 7436 ); Avnei Nezer (Yoreh De`ah 1:75:19-2137 ); Maharsham, (Da'at Torah , Yoreh De`ah 82:338 ); Rav Shmuel Schneerson,39 and Chesed L'Avraham (Tinyana, YD:22-2440 ). All of these authorities seem to view the hybridization principle as a rule separating two disjoined sets. In other words, they are not necessarily subsuming the new species under the mesorah of the known bird. Rather, the known bird is serving to prove that the new species is a member of the set of kosher birds.41

There is a second group of authorities who are willing to accept a weaker form of the hybridization principle.42 Within this group, some accept the stronger form in theory but are unwilling to apply it in practice while others are altogether unsure if it applies to birds. However, they all accept a weaker statement that states that if the unknown species freely chooses to mate with a known kosher species when offered the choice of either its own species or the other species, that is a sufficient indicator to subsume the new unknown species under the mesorah of the known kosher species. This group includes the Netziv (Meshiv Davar , Yoreh De`ah , section 2, 22)43 and Arugat Habosem (Kuntrus Ha'tshuvot , related to siman 82, p. 342-34344 ).

With regard to muscovy duck this is very important. Muscovy ducks are known to hybridize with other anseriform genera and species.45 According to Stanley Searles, curator of birds at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, a big problem for him is that when muscovys and pekins freely roam the park, they will, without encouragement, crossbreed. He stated that muscovy ducks are "equal opportunity breeders" and because of this it is difficult to find a pure breed muscovy in North America. The muscovy-pekin cross is so trivial to accomplish, that it has become important to the poultry industry. Domestic drake (males) and muscovy duck yield females that are smaller than the males, have no crest, and produce numerous but small eggs that are incapable of fertilization; they yield males that are large and sometimes fertile. The reciprocal cross (muscovy male x pekin female) is the one used commercially; Male and female offspring are similar in size, both are crested, and both are usually sterile. This cross is so common that there is a name for the product: a mulard (also spelled moulard). While once foie gras was made from goose liver (foie gras d'oie ), today over 70% comes from the disease-resistant, sterile hybrid, the mulard (foie gras de canard ).


Muscovy today

The mulard and its liver are accepted as kosher today in Israel by the chief rabbinate and are sold in large numbers by a company known as Foie Gras. If the offspring is treated as kosher it categorically implies that the parents are also kosher species, implying the kashrut of the muscovy.

In the late 1980's various farms in northern Israel raised large numbers of muscovy ducks that were marketed by an Israeli company, Oaf Hagalil. Based on information provided by the company,46 they sold 413 tons of muscovy in 1988, 1300 tons in 1989, and 2200 tons in 1990, worth a total of 5-6 million dollars. In one of the statements regarding muscovy issued at the time, the company states that they were under certification of the chief rabbinate of Jerusalem. We also have a copy of a letter from Rav Tzafanya Drori, chief rabbi of Kiryat Shemonah, dated 16 [Mar]Cheshvan 5750 (11/15/89) in which he states that he supervises the Oaf Hagalil plant and that the muscovy ducks slaughtered there are kosher l'mehadrin.

In 2003 there are no Israelis whom we know of who raise muscovy for its own sake. However, one farmer has about 200 males (and a handful of females) that he uses to interbreed with pekin females in order to produce the approximately 150,000 mulards that he sells annually, mostly to Foie Gras. We are unaware of mulard or muscovy currently being sold as kosher in other parts of the world.


Conclusion

For at least close to a thousand years the halacha has been that birds are treated as kosher only if there is a solid tradition (mesorah) regarding their acceptability. That requirement should have precluded the introduction of any New World birds into the kosher repertoire. It didn't. Some popular meat birds, such as the praire chicken, were never accepted as kosher despite their resemblance to the accepted chicken. Others, such as the turkey and the muscovy duck are today both accepted as kosher by a large segment of the Jewish people. But their historical trail to the Jewish table was quite different. There is almost no opposition in the responsa literature to the turkey, yet the muscovy had to claw its way past numerous negative responsa until it was grudgingly accepted. The reasons for this difference are difficult to even speculate, particularly if it is noted that the muscovy duck has a much greater similarity to the accepted mallard than the turkey has to the chicken.

The Arugat Habosem , in a long and detailed responsum (p. 339-347) in which he permits a large, different type of chicken, points out (ibid, p. 346) that lest anyone wants to be strict and reject his permissive ruling they perforce must also refrain from eating turkey, a bird whose permissibility is on much shakier ground than the bird he is discussing. In addition, many of the principles used to permit the turkey apply to the new bird as well.

We are not suggesting herein that the turkey be suddenly removed from the kosher kitchen; rather, that those who accept it realize that they should not perfunctorily reject other birds, such as the muscovy duck, while at the same time continuing to accept turkey as kosher.


1 Cyrus Gordon (Cyrus H. Gordon, Before Columbus: Links Between The Old World and Ancient America , Turnstone Press, Ltd., London, 1971), in what can best be described as a controversial theory, purports to prove the existence of transatlantic communication (and Pacific crossings) in antiquity. There are those who assert that such ancient global communication resulted in the introduction of many of the New World animals to the Old World prior to 1492. If it did occur, it for some inexplicable reason remained a small phenomenon. For example, when turkeys were introduced after 1492 they rapidly spread to all corners of the Old World. If they were introduced pre-Columbian they remained a local commodity and did not diffuse widely. Because of the disputed nature of this theory, despite Gordon's stature in his own field, and because of the small scale of the effect if there was one, the assumption will be that New World birds did not reach the Jews in the Old World until after 1492.

2 See Minhag Yisrael Torah , 336-337, on whether to make an "adama" or "she'hakol" on potato and on whether it should be considered kitniyot.

3 Corn, another New World product, is generally treated as kitniyot.

4 The current widespread custom to say "she'hakol" seems to have been arrived at rather quickly and took root. However, see the recent discussions by Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Minchat Shlomo 1:91:2 and Dayan Gavriel Krausz, Mekor haBracha , p. 52-61 for discussions regrading the proper blessing for chocolate and their leanings towards "borei pri ha-etz." Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe OC 3:31) justifies the current practice, as do Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in his introduction to Mekor Brachah and Shu"t Ohr L'Tzion (2:14:5). See R. Nathan Kamenetsky, Making of a Godol, vol. 1, p. 139, that Rav Shlomo Zalman personally made a borei pri ha’etz on chocolate, although he refrained from ruling as such in practice for others, even for his grandson.

5 This same question obviously applies to the over 750 species of birds indigenous to Australia and New Zealand. Some examples are: Brown kiwi (Apteryx australis ) - one of the three kiwi species. It is probably not kosher because, although it does not hunt, it does feed on invertebrates; Australian gannet (Sula serrator ) and laughing kookaburra (Dacelo gigas ) - almost definitely are not kosher since they are predatory; emu (Dromaius novae-hollandiae ) - has a peelable gizzard; and black swan (Cygnus atratus ) and Cape Barren goose (Cereopsis novae-hollandiae ) might very well be kosher.

6 For a discussion of this topic see: Ari Z. Zivotofsky and Ari Greenspan, Kashruto shel haPasyon (The kashrut of the Pheasant)[Hebrew] in Sefer Zikaron L'Rav Yosef ben David Kafich Ztz"l , Zohar Amar and Chananel Seri, editors, pages 107-116, 5761 (2001), published by the Office of the Campus Rabbi, Bar Ilan University, and Ari Greenspan and Ari Z. Zivotofsky, Kashruto shel HaPasyon (The kashrut of the Pheasant)[Hebrew] Mesorah (published by the Kashrut Division of the OU):18(Tishrei 5762/October 2001):87-96.

7 The term "species" is used here in a decidedly non-scientific manner. When the rabbis stated 24 "species" of birds, they meant 24 categories or broad classes of birds. Thus, for example, the Talmud (Chullin 63b) states that there are 100 birds in the east that are all types of ayah .

8 Most authorities, e.g. Rashi (Chullin 61a); Rambam (Maachalot Asurot 1:15); Meiri; Shulchan Aruch (YD 82:1); Chachmot Adam (36:2). There is a dissenting opinion that says that there are non-kosher species other than the listed 24 (Tosafot and Rashba, Chullin 61a).

9 The definition of dores is mired in dispute. For a summary see: Ari Z. Zivotofsky, Is Turkey Kosher?, The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society , Pesach 5758 (XXXV):81-83.

10 The extra toe is explained by Rashi and Rav Ovadiah Mibartenura (Chullin 3:6) as a toe behind and above the rest, i.e. the hallux. The Ran and Kaf haChaim (Rav Yaakov Chaim Soffer, 1870-1939) (YD 82:9) explain it to mean that the middle of the three front toes is larger than the other two. Some have suggested that the extra toe is a kind of spur that sticks out part of the way up the leg and does not rest on the ground. The Ramban (Chullin 59a) flatly rejects this since pigeon, the paradigmatic kosher bird, does not have this spur.

11 In fact, most opinions fall into one of four principal explanations. A lucid review of these four opinions and how they relate to the Talmudic discussion and to halacha is given by the Tzemach Tzedek (YD 1:60; Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, 1789-1866, 3rd Rebbe of Lubavitch).

12 Because of this rule, the number of Old World birds that are considered kosher is also rapidly shrinking. In an effort to publicly preserve many of the mesorahs that still exist, a learning dinner serving 13 species of known kosher birds was held in Jerusalem on 3 Tammuz 5762. See Ari Z. Zivotofsky and Ari Greenspan, Living the Law, Jewish Observer 35:10(Tevet 5763/December 2002):28-31 and the letters in the Adar II 5763/March 2003 issue. On the ongoing effort to preserve these masorot see Zohar Amar and Ari Zivotofsky, Project to preserve the masoret of tahor animals [Heb] Ha'Ma'ayan , Tevet 5763[43:2]:36-40.

13 For detailed discussions regarding the kosher status of turkey see: Ari Z. Zivotofsky, "Is Turkey Kosher?" The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society , 35(Spring, 1998):79-110 and Zohar Amar, "Kashrut of the Turkey" [Hebrew], BDD 13(2003) (in press).

14 See their website (http://www.eatturkey.com/consumer/history/history.htm) for statistics.

15 There are, of course, individual exceptions. Such notables as Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky and Rav Dovid Lifshitz did not eat turkey. However, these were personal stringencies that they did not advocate for others. For example, Rabbi Nathan Kamenetsky (son of Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky) wrote (personal fax, 1/20/1998): "My father did not advocate that others abstain" (emphasis RNK). It is also reported orally but not in writing that the ShLa"H (Rabbi Isaiah ben Avraham haLevi Horowitz; 1565? - 1630) left instructions that his descendants should not eat turkey, and to this day there are members of that family who adhere to this custom. There is a similar custom among some of the descendants of the Tosfot Yom Tov (Rabbi Yom Tov Lippman ben Nathan ha'Levi Heller; 1579-1654). These two traditions may share a common source. There is also the "well-known" Russian family (Frankel) whom Arugat haBosem (Kuntras ha'tshuvot , 16) writes did not eat turkey. Finally, there are several prominent contemporary rabbis who do not eat turkey. All of this not withstanding, there is no question that the overwhelming majority of Jews and of kashrut agencies treat the turkey as a kosher species.

16 This was more common in the eastern U.S. and was hunted to extinction by 1932.

17 Information on the history of the muscovy is from R.D. Crawford, Poultry Breeding and Genetics, Elsevier, 1990, Chapters 1, 2, and 17.

18 A New World bird that has not (yet) seen controversy is the American black duck (Anas rubripes ) that is indigenous to eastern North America. Hybrids between it and the domestic duck occur and are even fertile, a strong indicator that it is kosher.

19 The origin of the name is lost. Some suggest it is a corruption of musk duck because of a peculiar odor that used to be emitted by older muscovies. It may derive from one of the major merchant companies of Queen Elizabeth's reign, the Muscovite Company. Alternatively, it could relate to the Muisca Indians of central Colombia.

20 Crawford, p. 34.

21 On this psuedo-crop see the discussion in I.M. Levinger, Mazon Kasher Min Hachai (Modern Kosher Food Production from Animal Source , third edition, Israel, 1984) p. 36-37.

22 Rabbi Illowy was a fascinating character in American Jewish history, with a reputation as a masterful orator and staunch defender of traditional Judaism against Reform. He was born in Kolin, Bohemia in 1814 to a family of distinguished rabbinic scholars. His great-grandfather was Rabbi Phineas Illowy, a rabbi in Moravia, who is cited in the responsum of Rabbi Meir of Eisenstadt. His grandfather Rabbi Jacob Illowy was rabbi, av bet din, and rosh yeshiva in Bohemia. His father, Rabbi Jacob Judah, was not a rabbi by profession but had several students and was a well-respected, distinguished member of the community. Rabbi Bernard Illowy studied in the Pressburg Yeshiva, the University of Budapest, and the rabbinical school of Padua, Italy under Rav S.D. Luzzatto (Shadal; see EJ 11:604-607). He served as a rabbi and teacher in Europe as well as professor of French and German. He was fluent in Hebrew, Latin, Greek, German, English, French, and Italian. On account of (non-Jewish) political pressures related to the 1848 revolt of the Bohemians he was unable to take a rabbinic post in his native land. He therefore came to the U.S. where he was the first university educated Orthodox rabbi. In his U.S. rabbinic career he served congregations in New York City, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Syracuse (NY), Baltimore, New Orleans, and Cincinnati. He died on 3 Tammuz 5631 [June 22, 1871] and was buried in Cincinnati.

23 Based on the Ramo, Rabbi Illowy stated that a mesorah is required. However, he did search for an opinion that would enable him to use the signs in lieu of a mesorah. The proof he found was quite creative and was based on the laws of Bernacle Gans [Goose], birds that "grow" on trees. On this topic see EJ 4:247.

24 See The Controversial Letters and the Casuistic Decisions of the Late Rabbi Bernard Illowy , by his son Henry Illoway, Berlin, 1914, p.162-165.

25 Rabbi Illowy was given incorrect information. Muscovy eggs actually look very similar to chicken eggs. (Personal conversation with Stanley Searles, Curator of Birds at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Oct. 6, 1997).

26 He served in Memphis for four years, and then out of concern for his children's Jewish education moved to NY. There, according to his grandson, Rabbi Eugene Cohen (conversation Oct. 9, 2002), he served a conglomerate of 17(!) small shteiblach and still barely eked out a living. He died Erev Pesach, 1951.

27 His grandson relates that Rabbi Leeber Cohen told him that this was told to him by the Agudas Harabonim.

28 It is quite interesting that he concludes leniently, in light of the fact that, according to his grandson, he did not eat turkey because in his small European town there were no turkeys and hence no tradition regarding their kashrut.

29 Personal communication.

30 He was born in Podolia, Russia in 1854, and received smicha at age 18. He was invited to be the rabbi of a group of 120 families who were moving to Argentina to set up a Jewish farming community 600 km north of Buenos Aires. He selected the name of Kiryat Moshe, or Moies Ville in Spanish, named after Moshe Rabeinu. After a year of poverty, Baron Hirsch began helping them.

31 See his Divrei Aharon (5741, Jerusalem) YD:25-31.

32 Mazon Kasher Min Hachai (Modern Kosher Food Production from Animal Source , third edition, Israel, 5745, p. 70-71).

33 Written by R. Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, the Netziv, in 5644 [1884].

34 Rav Eliyahu Klatzkin (1852-1932) from Lublin permitted a duck that he was asked about in 1911, and it seems that it may have been the muscovy duck. He ruled that it does not require a mesorah because of its similarity to known kosher ducks, and it is therefore sufficient that it has the physical signs of a kosher bird (Dvar Halacha , 1921, #53 [pages 37a-b]).

35 Rav Ben-David confirmed this in a telephone conversation, August, 2002.

36 The Chatam Sofer has two paragraphs in his permissive response. In the first he bases his ruling solely on the hybridization principle. In the second paragraph he addresses the nay-sayer who does not accept that the hybridization principle applies to birds and demonstrates that he can nonetheless still support his ruling. It seems quite clear that the Chatam Sofer himself did accept that it applies to birds, but was willing to accept that others may have a lingering doubt. That is also how the Avnei Nezer (Yoreh De`ah 1:75:15) understands the Chatam Sofer. Note however that Rav Yehonatan Steif (202) and Rabbi J.D. Bleich (Tradition 36:2, 111) seem to understand the Chatam Sofer differently.

37 He wrote unequivocally that: "most certainly in truth with regards to birds a pure and impure species cannot cause fertilization one in the other" (ibid 19). Furthermore, he held (1:75:15) that the Chatam Sofer held the principle, but had a small reservation that he, the Avnei Nezer (ibid 16), resolved. In practice (see 1:75:20) when a new species produced live offspring together with a known kosher species he relied on the hybridization principle to permit it even in the face of a great difference in characteristics of the birds such as a difference in the sound they produce (see 1:75:3 and 1:76:2 where he describes this as a large difference). There are those (see Bleich, ibid) who wish to claim that in 1:76 the Avnei Nezer rejects the hybridization principle for birds. Based on 1:75, a tshuva essentially devoted to proving that very principle, it is utterly ridiculous to even suggest such a thought. Rather in 1:76 he was rejecting seven (!) proofs offered by someone else in order to permit a specific bird. In the process of tearing him down (1:76:5) he rejects the logic behind the other person's acceptance of the hybridization principle, not the principle. He never even mentions Bechorot 7b and his own basis for accepting the principle.

38 In lines 3-5 he cites the Chatam Sofer's lenient opinion. And the only supporting evidence he quotes from the Chatam Sofer is the hybridization. Others [Bleich, ibid, p. 110] found nothing of relevance in that quote by the Maharsham from the Chatam Sofer.

39 Igrot Kodesh from Admor Moharash mi'Lubavitch , 5753, page 8. He was the youngest son of the Tzemach Tzedek and the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe. He states that without question the principle applies to birds just as it applies to animals. The editor of the letters writes in a footnote that the bird in question was the turkey. Based on the stated commonality of the hybridization between the unknown bird and chickens it seems unlikely it is referring to turkey, a species that will only with great technical assistance reproduce with a chicken.

40 Written by Rav Avraham Te'omim. Originally published in Lemberg, 5658 and reprinted in Jerusalem in 5727. He repeatedly defends the position based on numerous sources, and seems to attribute it to Tosfot as well.

41 This group of authorities should be enough to dispel the notion (Bleich, ibid p. 112) that "no authority accepts the hybridization phenomenon as an alternative to a mesorah with regards to birds."

42 Note that some people, such as the Beit Yitzchak (1:YD:07:10) totally reject the hybridization principle for birds and others, such as Mahari Asad (Yehuda Ya'aleh , 92-93 and 274), are in doubt about it applicability.

43 He writes that, according to the simple reading, the strong hybridization principle should apply. He injects a doubt into it, though by no means fully rejecting it, and then clearly states that the weaker form is indeed a sufficient proof to treat them as one species and declare the new species kosher.

44 By Aryeh Leibish, Vilna 5630, reprinted Tel Aviv 5736.

45 This cross is made easier by the fact that the domestic duck (Anas platyrhyncha ) and the muscovy duck (Cairina moschata ) both have 80 chromosomes.

46 Thanks to Rami Katzir of Oaf HaGalil for this information.


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