Are turkeys kosher?

Y Adlerstein (
Sat, 5 Jul 1997 23:06:41 -0700

A small contribution to the discussion regarding the kashrut of turkey. It
is true that the Gemara describes the features of non-kosher birds. It is
also true that the majority of bird species should be kosher by using these
criteria. However, this is precisely what we do not do, having lost our
confidence in properly understanding the Gemara's yardsticks. We therefore
only eat species for which there is a tradition.

Readers were puzzled as to where such a tradition could have gotten
started for a bird entirely unknown in centers of Torah scholarship until
colonial American times. The answer is possibly given by Darchei Teshuva,
Yoreh Deah, 82:26 He argues (actually citing Arugas Habosem) that we
only require a tradition for a bird that we don't know too much about. In
such a case, we do not rely on the presence of the kosher signs. On the
other hand, we are permitted to rely on such signs if they are present in
many samples of a species we have observed over a long period of time, and
have overwhelming evidence that it is not a bird of prey.

Yitzchok Adlerstein
Los Angeles