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Franken-chicken Part 2: the trouble with turkey


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:

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


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:


• 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.


• 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.


• 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.

Like this


And like this:

(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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13 replies
  1. Simon
    Simon says:

    What are your thoughts on “artificial intelligence”? They released an “AI chat” where you can ask anything! Even like a poem, it can write a poem…
    How does this relate to the human soul?

  2. Alizah Teitelbaum
    Alizah Teitelbaum says:

    bs”d on the subject of artificial intelligence, it reminds me of Rabbi Nachman’s story, “The Burgher and the Pauper”, where the pirate captures the emperor’s daughter with golden birds made with such great skill that they appeared to be alive.The story also says that the pirate is a eunuch and there’s a comment in R’ Aryeh Kaplan’s book that the forces of evil are sterile. And again, these birds are not really alive.. There’s another note that they may be the mentalities of the evil forces, represented by birds in he Kabbalah. See page 217 in R’ Kaplan’s book.

  3. Molly
    Molly says:

    I’ve raised chickens before and they act in the same cannibalistic way. If one has a sore, the injured bird has to be quarantined or the other chickens will literally peck it to death. Also they are definitely predators. If ever they saw a mouse or a lizard, they chase it down and munch it up with glee.

  4. Hayim
    Hayim says:

    Thank you for this informative article. There’s also a nice treatment of the subject of the kashrut of the Turkey in Sichat Chulin, chapter 3 (beginning on page 429 in the version I have). Amongst the debates brought there are whether we should rely on the mesoret of American Indians (ha ha), a portion of which claim to be from the lost tribes. In any case, the conclusion is that even though according to the Shulchan Aruch we need a mesoret, by the time the Shulchan Aruch came along, people were already eating Turkey according to the opinion of the Ramby who requires only simanim without a mesoret.
    For our purposes, there’s also the issue of reliability of hekshers, because what I have heard is that they’re slaughtering so many birds, they don’t have time to check all of them, so it’s recommended to buy only birds which are slaughtered in smaller batches, such a Machpud, Landau, and Reuben (and not Badatz Edah Haredit, Badatz Beit Yosef, et al.). I have also heard that Atara is good, even though it’s Badatz Beit Yosef.
    I’d be interested to know how we know that Rabbeinu said that Turkey isn’t kosher? Is this written somewhere or an oral tradition? I have heard before that Breslovers don’t eat Turkey because it’s a cruel bird, but I didn’t know if where this minhag came from,
    Thanks again

    • Rivka Levy
      Rivka Levy says:

      I spent Shabbat trying to track down the source for Breslovers not eating Turkey.

      I found some references to it ‘in passing’ but nothing in Sichat HaRan, Chayei Moharan or Shevchay HaRan. I am still asking around, to see if someone can give me a specific source, on the Breslov side of the equation.

      In the meantime, the Shlah also came out strongly against it, and so did Yom Tov Lippman Heller – to this day, his observant descendants don’t eat Turkey.

      So it’s definitely a ‘thing’…. but by no means as easy to source as I thought it was going to be.

  5. Molly
    Molly says:

    I got more curious about chicken, and apparently it historically comes from a type of bird called junglefowl. From the few videos I could find on the bird, they honestly do not come off as a bird of prey. More opportunistic scavenger type. I’m definitely interested in learning more as you learn more.

  6. Ruth
    Ruth says:

    This chicken question is really playing on my mind.
    Jews in Yemen ate chicken. What would their basis of doing that be?
    Often it is said that the Yeminite traditions and halacha were most preserved and when Mashiach comes and there is one set of halachot for everyone, it will be closest to the Yeminite tradition.

    • Rivka Levy
      Rivka Levy says:

      Just to be clear, there ARE lenient opinions on what’s required to make a fowl kosher.

      And the more I look into this, the more I’m seeing it’s a huge, ginormous mess, and there are no quick fixes here.

      Maybe the lesson to learn at the end of all this will simply be to accept our level of kashrut is not ‘super-duper’, even if we’re exclusively eating badatz etc.

      Maybe, the humility of knowing we simply can’t do this so ‘properly’ these days is part of what’s going on here… I really don’t know.

      The last thing that needs to happen is for there to be another reason to look down our noses at other Jews just because ‘they still eat chicken’….

      I’m just trying to feel out the information here. But in terms of what I myself do about it, let alone what anyone else does about it – I have no idea.

      And when I get to that point in the process, I will probably have to ask a shaila of a Rav I trust to give me the answer God wants me to have. And that’s true of all us, probably.

      So, there are no plans to ‘outlaw’ eggs, or even, chickens, on the blog. I’m just sharing info here, and then each person will have to take it back to their hitbodedut, and their own personal Rav, if they want more guidance on tachlis what to do.


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