5-5771 Mitzvah N-94
Negative Mitzvah 94– This is a negative commandment: do not eat non-kosher fowl.
Hafetz Hayim – As Scripture says: “And these you shall hold in abomination among the fowl; they shall not be eaten” (Leviticus 11:13); any bird that divides its feet when a string is stretched for it [to walk on, placing] two talons on one side and two talons on the other, or that takes in food from the air and eats in mid-air, is a bird of prey, and is non-kosher. Whatever dwells with non-kosher birds and resembles them is non-kosher. If someone ate an olive’s amount from a non-kohser kind of bird, he should receive whiplashes. The eggs of a non-kosher species of bird are forbidden to be eaten, by the law of the Torah.
This applies everywhere and always, for both men and women.
There are many different ways that Kosher and non-kosher birds are identified. I am not an expert on kosher birds so I will quote here from Rabbi Isaac Klein [Guide to Religious Jewish Practice: JTS Press; p. 304-5] “The Torah does not prescribe any identifying marks for birds; instead, it enumerates the species that are forbidden – a total of twenty-four according to the reckoning in the Talmud (Hulin 63b). The implication is that those not listed are permitted. The rabbis of the Talmud, however, deduced four distinguishing marks of birds that are permitted. A permitted bird has a crop; the sac in the gizzard can be peeled off; it has an extra toe – i.e. in addition to the three front toes, it has another toe in the back; it is not a bird of prey. According to one opinion, a bird that divides its toes when it rests, i.e. two toes in front and two in the back, is not permitted (Mishna Hulin 3:6) Despite these identifying marks, it has become the accepted practice that only those birds that have been traditionally accepted as permitted may be eaten (Shulchan Aruch: Yorah Deah 82: in Rema). They are: chicken, turkeys, ducks, geese, and pigeons. Pheasants have been considered permitted in may places.”
The problem with all of this is that the Torah does not list any way to determine a kosher bird from a non-kosher bird. The rabbis try to find some distinguishing marks on the non-kosher birds but as you can see from Klein, they pretty much have given up on this. Today we only eat birds that have a tradition of being eaten. This is particularly interesting in the case of turkey and pheasant. Turkey is not in the Torah and was not discovered by Europeans until they came to the “new” world. I am not sure why turkey was eventually put on the list but it definitely is on the list of permitted birds today. Pheasant was a bird that was not domesticated and was only hunted. Since a hunted bird is not killed properly, according to the laws of shechitah, it could not be eaten. Because it was so tied to the hunt, Jews never ate it and so there is not a strong tradition of eating pheasant. In some places, where pheasant are raised on farms and slaughtered according to the laws of shechitah, they are permitted to be eaten. In places that did not have a tradition of eating pheasant, they still do not permit it.
If you are unsure that the bird you want to eat is a kosher bird, you have no recourse but to show it to a rabbi for a ruling on if that bird is permitted. Or you can just shop at a kosher butcher where only accepted kosher birds are sold.
The Talmud also notes that since birds do not produce milk for their young, they should not be considered meat but in fact they are meat and NOT parve. The sages were concerned about people eating fowl and thinking they were eating meat and get confused. Fowl is considered to be Meat today.