Following on from the Franken-Chicken post part 1, my husband did some research.
Long story short, the same halachic arguments over today’s ‘Cornish Cross’ chickens apply to turkey, too.
A few people wrote about the issue with turkey not being kosher, including this one:
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.
Notice just who was writing on this subject, and deciding the kashrut of birds 250 years ago.
R’ Anthony Manning also has an interesting piece where he sets out the basic sources for the halachah very clearly, HERE.
Here’s a snippet of his conclusion:
B3] SUMMARY OF THE MAIN HALACHIC POSITIONS FOR KASHRUT OF BIRDS
1. ONLY THREE SIGNS ARE NEEDED
• Rambi, Razah, Ramban, Rashban, Ran, Ittur and others: This is the most lenient position21
• As long as the bird displays the 3 main signs, this means that it is NOT a dores and we can assume it is kosher. According to some22
EVEN if it displays the behavior of a dores, this is considered anomalous and can be ignored.
• According to others, if we see that it actual displays signs of being a dores, then it will not be kosher.
The Shach quotes the lenient position of the Maharshal, that as long as it has 3 signs, it will be kosher, even if displays
evidence of being a dores. The Shach does not allow that level of leniency.
2. FOUR SIGNS ARE NEEDED
• Rashi, Rosh, Rasba, Chinuch, Rambam(?). This is the middle position.
• It requires the bird has ALL 3 positive signs and we ALSO know the bird is NOT a dores. Proving a negative is however very difficult.
Clearly, if we see any indication of drisa this will disqualify the bird.
• Some (Ba’al HaMaor and others) accept the ‘Goose Comparison’ – which is that if the bird has a wide beak and webbed feet, like a
goose, we know that it is not a dores. Then, if we find the other 3 signs, we can permit the bird.
3. A MASORET IS NEEDED AND SIGNS ARE NO LONGER RELEVANT
• Rashi, Tosafot: This is the strictest position. Given the confusion in proving or disproving the signs, we no longer refer to them at all,
but eat ONLY those birds for which we have a tradition from our ancestors that they are kosher.
• Even if there is a mesoret, if the bird is seen to be a dores the mesora is assumed to be mistaken, and the bird is not kosher.23
R’ Manning does a very good job of setting out all the information, go HERE to read the whole thing.
The problem with turkey is that a) there is NO tradition that it was kosher, people just kind of starting eating it 300 years ago, and then the rabbis of the time just kind of shrugged their shoulders and said ‘ok then’.
And b) – it’s got a lot of cruel, ‘dores’ tendencies.
And like this:
No Christmas dinner is worth this cruelty. pic.twitter.com/xOHJQWAkJo
— Animal Equality UK (@animal_equality) December 21, 2018
(These are two different stories, on two different occasions….)
So… no wonder Rabbenu said Turkey shouldn’t be eaten.
As to what we do about the chickens of our times….
I don’t know.
I’m debating asking a shaila to the Rav, but part of me is also a little scared to do that, because if he says ‘no chicken’ that’s going to be hard to avoid, especially with my kids, who already think I have religious fanatic tendencies…
I do know I’m not buying ‘Franken-chicken’ anymore, and it does seem to me most of the ‘chicken’ we’re buying today isn’t really chicken.
But then, I’m starting to understand that this whole discussion is SO complicated, because no-one seems to know, anymore, what is really a ‘kosher chicken’ according to our masoret.
So for now… I’m buying more red meat and pondering what to do next.
What I can tell you, is that there is nothing new under the sun.
All these arguments just seem to be coming back around again and again and again, on a monstrous loop.
300 years ago it was turkey, today it’s ‘cornish crosses’
And each time, the battle to do the right thing is so very hard.
Personally, I’m still not sure what the right thing is to do, with all this chicken stuff.
IF I could find a not cornish cross, presumed kosher chicken I for sure would go for that.
In the meantime, I am starting to look into more organic options too, but I’m also wary of digging up to much information that I won’t know what to do with…
That’s where I’m currently holding with all this.
On a separate but related note, I also started thinking about how the whole heter to use ‘chalav nochri’ is based on the idea that the official organisations are trustworthy, and wouldn’t lie to anyone about mixing in a bit of pig milk with their cows’ milk.
At this point…. that assumption seems naive in the extreme.
If they are mixing in HEK293 from aborted foetuses into ‘veggie burgers’…. then what the heck are they NOT putting in the stuff labelled chalav nochri?
Enquiring minds need to know.
I personally don’t eat chalav nochri, but even in Israel, it’s getting into everything these days.
And it’s probably long past time to revisit some of these assumptions about the trustworthiness of ‘official labels’ and FDA approvals, and even ‘vegan certifications’…
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