Which Birds Are (And Aren’t) Permitted for Consumption by Kashrut?

For most Jews, identifying kosher animals is easy, particularly those with distinct anatomical traits specified in the Kashrut. However, the same cannot be said for birds. 

Kosher birds are not as clearly defined as fish or mammals, making it difficult to differentiate between the ones that are permitted and those that are forbidden. This post will shed more light on this controversy and provide a list of safe birds and those that are not right to consume, as per the Kashrut. But first, what is the Kashrut, and why is it so important?   

What Is the Kashrut?

Kashrut refers to the set of Jewish dietary laws and regulations that dictate what foods are considered kosher (fit or proper) and which are not. It is one of the most distinctive aspects of Jewish life. It defines the types of food that Jewish people can eat, known as kosher (meaning “correct” or “fitting”).

The Kashrut is derived from the Torah (Jewish holy scripture) and covers various aspects of food preparation and consumption. It is part of the commandments God gave to his people, alongside other laws related to theft, bloodshed, sexual relations, idol worship, and blasphemy. In short, following the Kashrut, according to Jewish belief, is key to remaining loyal to the word of God.  

Which Birds Are Not Kosher?

Birds are one of the categories of forbidden and permitted animals specified in the book of Leviticus. However, the book only offers a list of 24 types of non-kosher birds rather than identifying the rules or characteristics that define them. These prohibited birds include bats, storks, hoopoes, herons, pelicans, owls, hawks, seagulls, ostriches, vultures, eagles, kites, ravens, cormorants, and bustards. 

To ensure that there are fewer misunderstandings about the various species of birds forbidden by the Kashrut, rabbis have offered further explanations on the issue. The following are some of the key criteria they highlighted about birds that are not kosher: 

  • Birds of prey. Vultures, hawks, and eagles are some of the main species of birds known to have predatory habits. These birds are non-kosher because they are carnivorous and actively hunt and feed on other animals.   
  • Scavengers. Ravens and crows, among other scavenging birds, are non-kosher. This is because they feed on the decaying flesh of dead animals and are, therefore, unfit for human consumption.  
  • Non-kosher traits. Birds with certain physical traits, such as an additional toe or a peculiar type of gizzard, are also generally considered to be kosher. On the other hand, those without such characteristics are non-kosher.  
  • Unidentified or unknown species of birds. Birds that are generally unknown or those not mentioned in the kosher rules are, by default, considered to be non-kosher.  

Which Birds Are Permitted by the Kashrut?

Since the Kashrut only specifies the types of birds that are non-kosher, plenty of controversy exists regarding the birds a Jew can eat. However, over time, rabbis have used their divine understanding of the Torah to offer further directions. Their guidelines are largely based on the principles and physical signs similar to those issued for fish and mammals. There are three aspects that most rabbis agree are important for a bird to be classified as kosher: 

  • An “additional” toe that is above and behind the other toes. Some rabbinic texts describe it as a front toe that is longer than the rest or an “elongated toe.” Chicken are a great example of birds that have both of these types of toes.
  • A crop which is a pouch-like structure that temporarily stores undigested food.
  • A digestive system that has a gizzard. The gizzard in kosher animals is covered with a skin that you can peel off with your hand.  

The following are the main types of birds that Kashrut permits: 

  • Chicken. The Jewish community has been consuming chicken meat for a long time, and the bird is generally accepted as kosher. However, the bird should be slaughtered in line with the Shechita (ritual slaughtering) method to pass as kosher. 
  • Turkey. Many orthodox Jews have become used to eating turkeys, and since the birds possess the traits needed to make them kosher, they are generally permitted. However, as with chicken, they have to be slaughtered with strict adherence to kosher rules. 
  • Geese. While geese do not possess a crop, they are generally considered kosher by virtue of being passed down numerous Jewish generations. 
  • Quail. Also considered as kosher due to its history of being consumed in Jewish cuisine. 
  • Duck. Like chicken, ducks are accepted as kosher, but you ought to slaughter them in accordance with Kashrut rules. 
  • Pheasant. Jews in several European communities were known to eat pheasant, which is why the bird came to be accepted as kosher. However, just as with the other kosher birds, you have to follow Kashrut rules when slaughtering pheasant for the meat to be kosher.    

Rules for Kosher Slaughtering

The Kashrut does not only specify the birds and other animals that are fit for the Jewish diet but also offers guidelines on meat preparation. It states that a ritual slaughter is necessary for any meat to be considered kosher. This implies that when an animal is slaughtered, the raw meat should be traditionally cut, rinsed, and salted before it is cooked. 

The Kashrut slaughtering rules ensure that blood is drained from the inner parts of the meat. Blood is non-kosher, and therefore, it is prohibited to eat any meat that has blood on its inner surfaces. Coarse grain salt is typically considered ideal for draining blood from meat before it is cooked. However, you can cook roasted meat without salting it, as fire naturally triggers the purging of blood.  

Get Kosher Food Delivered at Sarah’s Tent

As a Torah-observant Jew, you have every right to ensure that everything you consume is healthy and pure. At Sarah’s Tent, we have made it our mission to source the freshest kosher foods and avail them at your convenience. Get your favorite kosher food delivered straight to your front door!

 Whether you are looking for kosher birds, kosher fresh fish, kosher grocery and gourmet food, and kosher dairy products, among other foods, we have a huge selection at our store. Stop by today to shop for your favorite kosher delicacies. 

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