Duck Recall

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rabbi-gershon-tannenbaumBy Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum

In this column dated January 8, 2010, in our “Call for Increased Kosher Law Enforcement,” we listed the highlights of kosher food manufacturing in the State of New York. The first Jews, using the plural form, to have set foot in what we know today as the Continental United States, was in 1654. The first individual Jew, however, to arrive on the newly discovered American continent was Joachim Gaunse (or Gans), a metallurgist and mining engineer from Prague, who landed in Virginia in 1585 as part of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Roanoke expedition.

What he and other European settlers found in the new world was new flora (plants) and fauna (animals), some wild and others cultivated and domesticated by the then Native Americans. Some of the new plants and animals were immediately recognized as nutritious foods and brought back to the Old World. Jews were involved in these new foods, as consumers, merchants, and cultivators. Almost immediately, the question of the new foods’ kosher status arose and was dealt with by the leading rabbis of the time. New foods such as corn, potatoes, chocolate, bison, tuna, and turkey were carefully analyzed. When found acceptable, the proper brachah for the different new foods was also determined.

Birds however, represent a more difficult hurdle in determining their kashrus. The Torah does not enumerate any identifying features to determine the kashrus of a bird. Twenty-four named birds are non-kosher and, ipso facto, all others are kosher. Without specific features given in the Torah that make a bird kosher, the rabbis listed four attributes that must be present: (a) A bird that is dores, a predator, is not kosher. To be kosher, a bird must have: (b) An extra talon on its foot; (c) A zefek or crop, which is a pouch in the esophagus in which food is held; and (d) A korkuvan (gizzard – inner organ) with an inner lining that can be peeled. These simanim, identifying features, continue to be debated.

Rashi, in Chulin, set down a ruling in response to many Jews having eaten an unkosher bird, which had confusing features. Rashi set forth that only birds that had a mesorah (tradition) of having been eaten by our fathers and forefathers are to be considered kosher. The Shulchan Aruch, in Yoreh De’ah 82:3 and the Rema (ibid) clearly restate Rashi’s ruling. The discovery of America yielded three types of birds: Turkey, Prairie-Chicken, and Muscovy Duck.

Duck Recall

A proclamation titled “Notice” in “Der Blatt” of January 15, 2010, KJ Poultry of Monroe, N.Y., signed by management, requests the return of ducks purchased “due to the investigation underway of the ducks delivered by a farmer that may have mixed breeds.” The announcement advises that: “Until such time that a clear determination can be made, the ducks are not to be eaten and should be returned.”

The turkey was immediately accepted as kosher. Halachic questions regarding eating turkey are only found in the 1700s, as much as 200 years after their introduction into Europe and general kashrus acceptance. Benjamin Franklin suggested that the turkey be named America’s national bird and its present highest per capita consumption is in Israel. Reasons for its kashrus acceptance are many and varied, and interestingly it was almost never prohibited by any noted halachic authority. The Praire Chicken on the other hand, widely eaten in early America, was never offered, never considered, and never accepted, as kosher.

The Muscovy duck, however, has generated much discussion in Halacha. The Muscovy duck has differing features, such as hissing instead of quacking, some black feathering, and non-exclusively-yellow beaks and feet. In addition, its somewhat predatory nature must be considered.

In 1860, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Illowy, zt”l (1814-1871), a student and musmach of the Chasam Sofer, served as Rabbi in New Orleans. He declared the Muscovy duck as not kosher since it did not have any mesorah. Rabbi Noson Adler, zt”l (1844-1890), Chief Rabbi of London, and Rabbi Shamshon Rafael Hirsch, zt”l (1808-1888), agreed with him. Before Rabbi Illowy, the question of the Muscovy duck never arose, possibly because it was not recognized as a separate species or that it was known by other names.

Later, in 1908, the Muscovy was presented to Rabbi Shmuel Salant, zt”l (1816-1909), Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, who declared it kosher. In 1954, Rabbi Zvi Pesach Frank, zt”l (1879-1960), Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, indicates in his Har Zvi, Yoreh De’ah 75, that in 1909 the Muscovy was ruled kosher for an Argentinean immigrant. The Har Zvi, however, only permitted the Muscovy to be eaten by those that were already eating it. Possibly, because of determinations such as his, the cheaply nurtured Muscovy was cultivated and eaten in large numbers in Israel during its early and economically difficult years (1949-1954).

Rabbi Israel Meir Levinger, Chief Rabbi of Basel and President of the European Rabbinical Kashruth Commission, in his Mazon Kasher Min HaChai p. 70-71, quotes Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, zt”l (1816-1893), known as the Netziv and author ofMeshiv Davar, who discusses the Muscovy in 1884 and notes that certain communities did accept it while others did not. The Netziv permits the Muscovy in his Meshiv Davar, Yoreh De’ah 2: 22 and is so noted in Arugas HaBosem, Kuntres HaTeshuvos 82. In addition, the Divrei Malkiel is also listed as having permitted the Muscovy.

Notable in their vehement opposition are Rabbi Chaim Soloveichik, zt”l (1853-1918), Chief Rabbi of Brisk, and Rabbi Chaim Berlin, zt”l (1832-1912), Chief Rabbi of Moscow and Jerusalem.

Muscovy Duck 2010

In a two-page Kol Koreh proclamation, published in “Der Yid” of January 22, 2010, the Muscovy is carefully and detailedly analyzed and found to be not kosher, calling it a tumah, contaminated, bird. The Kol Koreh carries the signatures of Rabbi Shlomo Zvi Stern, DebricenerRav; Rabbi Yitzchok Stein, Foltechaner Dayan; Rabbi Yitzchak Eliezer Yakub,Rav of Beis Medrash Tevuos Shor and author of Siach Yitzchok; Rabbi Yaakov Zeida, Dayan of Vishnitz; and Rabbi Yechezkel Roth, Karlsburger Rav and author of Emek HaTeshuvah.

Contemporary scholars note that none of the permitting rabbis discussed the categorization of the Muscovy duck as a predator (dores). This, the scholars maintain, is because the permitting rabbis were not able to observe the Muscovy for any prolonged time. The rabbis prohibiting the Muscovy do so because of its predatory nature, which is an attribute found only in non-kosher birds. Had the permitting rabbis investigated the predatory nature of the bird, undoubtedly say the scholars, the Muscovy would have loudly been declared as non-kosher.

The OU, in its Position on Certifying Specific Animals and Birds by Rabbi Seth Mandel and Rabbi Chaim Loike, states: “Muscovy Duck – There were relatively many teshuvos written about Muscovy duck. Many are included later in the volume. It is clear that many authoritative poskim permitted it, and others did not. In such a case, OU certification will not be given.”

The OU’s monthly “Daf HaKashrus” of December 2004, under the heading of “The Kosher Status of Specific Questionable Birds” compiled by Rabbi Yosef Grossman, Editor, the “Daf HaKashrus” writes, “The following list represents the OU’s position regarding the kashruth status of certain questionable birds. This compilation is largely based on the teshuvah of Rav Yisroel Belsky published in last month’s issue of “Daf HaKashrus” and that of Rav Herschel Schachter in this month’s issue.” Muscovy duck is found under the Non-Acceptable column.

In an OU document titled “B-38 Kosher Status of Specific Birds and Animals, the Muscovy Duck is described as “Commonly considered assur” with Rabbi Yisroel Belsky’s signature, dated Tishrei 5764. Rabbi Yisroel Belsky is Rosh Yeshiva Torah Vodaath and today’s leading Yeshivish posek in America.

In the “old days” when food may have been scarce and hard to come by, such as in the early years of the establishment of the State of Israel, some rabbis may have relied on various leniencies to allow the consumption of the cheaply grown Muscovy. Today, however, with the abundance of food, these leniencies are likely not accepted by any poskim.

{Machberes-Rabbi G. Tannenbaum/ Newscenter}


  1. The KJ announcement in the Blatt is not secheldik. why blame the farmer for a breed mistake. It sounds like a mashgiach mistake.

    It seems like at least the yid and blatt agree that muscovy is not acceptable now.

  2. The Satmar dayonim finally published a recall in Der Blatt (01/28/01) in Hebrew, however there is no mention what the problem was to begin with, neither if you have to take any action (like kashering keilim). The announcement just says (after lauding the “Shechita Mehuderes) that they “paskened” to be “machmir” not to eat the ducks that were “shechted” on 28 Kislev (Dec. 15, 09).
    My question: 1) What about the previous lots? 2) What about yidden that don’t read the Blatt, like “Der Yid”, “News Report” and the Anglo-Jewish papers, especially the Jewish Press where KJ Poultry is advertised?
    Also why does the OU keep quiet about this? Isn’t their insignia on KJ Poultry?

  3. Just like standard barn yard ducks, Muscovy ducks have both wild and domesticated varieties. In fact, the habits, including its eating habits do not differ from duck varieties considered kosher (which were domesticated from the Mallard duck). Indeed, all ducks eat not only vegetation and grains, but insects, fish, frogs, worms, etc. It is incorrect to say they are Dores. Hawks, eagles, owls, vultures, falcons, etc. are Dores because they hold their prey in their talons while they eat, ducks do not. The main reason why some Poskim forbade the Muscovy duck was omitted from the above article. It is because it has a large fleshy nodule above its bill near it eyes. The Poskim believed this physical feature differentiated it enough from a standard duck, that it may be another species for which there is no Mesorah. Other than this feature, the Muscovy is virtually identical to ducks that have a Mesora.

    The most authoritative person alive on the Mesora and Halacha of kosher species is Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky. Not only has he studied every Shita, every nuance of the Halchos od Minim Tehorim, he is also a professor of biological science. He has found that the Muscovy duck is kosher.

  4. Rav Schachter is also today’s leading Yeshivah posek in America. He is Rosh Yeshivah and Rosh Kollel of Yeshivas Yitzchak Elchanan. We don’t need subtle politics in articles. Anyone who has seen and/or heard Rav Belsky and Rav Shachter together on OU Halacha forums knows this to be true. Rav Schachter is without doubt one of the Poskei HaDor.

  5. Rav Shechter is definitely a Gadol and must be honored as such. However, the reality is that he is not honored as he should be by the “yeshivish” community. This, of course, does not diminish Rav Shachter.
    The mention of Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky is interesting because it runs contrary to almost every single contemporary Posek and it runs opposite Gedolim such Rav Chaim Berlin zt”l and the Brisker Rav zt”l, as well as Rav Hirsch zt”l and the others who forbade the Muscovy. Rav Yechezkel Roth, one of today’s revered Gedolim, called the Muscovy: TUMA. Considering the entire spectrum, who in his right mind would dare to eat Muskovy? Further, the incident in KJ should have been disclosed by the KJ rabbis as well as by the OU (of which Rav Shechter is a Posek).

  6. ask any expert in kashrus and they wil tell u miskovey is dores very wild and eats its own children the peckin duck which is good is so nice

  7. No one has investigated these issues as well as Rabbi Zivotofsky, who is not only a scholar on such topics, but a yerai shamayim.

  8. It seems that KJ Poultry, with hasgocha of the KJ rabbis and the OU missed a beat. It seems that they were alerted to their own oversight quite by accident. Now that we’ve heard from the KJ rabbis, where is the OU’s kosher alert ? To commentator #10 referencing Rabbi Zivotovsky’s articles on birds, it seems that he would be mattir them. That runs contrary to virtually every Posek today, including Rav Yechezkel Roth, Rav Yisroel Belsky, and even Rav Hershel Shachter. Forgive me, but Rabbi Zivotovsky, as much work as he put into this, is off base. The Muskovy Katchka Duck does not have the unreserved haskoma from any posek, ever. Each posek that was mattir had caveots, whether it was only for those that had some kind of mesora or that there was a famine. The Jewish Press is correct in its conclusion that “Today, however, with the abundance of food, these leniencies are likely not accepted by any poskim.” Political considerations aside, the only real question remains is wether those that inadvertantly consumed the Muskovy must kasher their keilim, pots, and pans, etc.

  9. So…

    All agree that Anas platyrhynchos is kosher.
    There is debate as to the status of Cairina moschata.

    The muscovy duck (C. moschata) can hybridise with the mallard (A. platyrhynchos). A kosher animal cannot interbreed with a non-kosher animal (as per our Sages of yore). Is that not an indication that the muscovy is kosher?

  10. Most of the commentators on this article have a great misconception. Not withstanding Rav Roth who, allegedly called the Muscovy duck, Tuma, the entire talk disqualifying the Muscovy duck is totally off base and spoken from ignorance of Halacha. 1. It is pure ignorance from a Halacha perspective and the Metzius to consider that the Muscovy duck may be a Dores. 2. The entire problem and the only problem there ever was with the Muscovy duck was its slightly different appearance, not any substantial physical difference, taxonomical difference, or it traits and habits. The reason why all the Poskim of 100-150 years ago prohibited it, was only because they had a Sofek that because of this slight difference in appearance, the Muscovy would require a Mesora as all unknown bird need in order to exclude it from being among the 24 non-kosher birds explicit in the Torah. 3. The fact that a bird lacks an affirmative Mesora does not mean it is an Oaf Tame. In fact, if it has all or most of the 4 Simanim the Chachomim have expressed that indicate a kosher bird, then it is 99% kosher. Still we don’t eat it because of our Chumra that it must possess a Mesora. If Rav Roth called the Muscovy an Oaf Tame, he is completely off base, because it does not have an affirmative Mesora as being an Oaf Tame (such as a pelican or a stork). As for Rav Schechter and Rav Belsky, I would make a strong assumption that both of they would admit that the overwhelming likelihood is that the Muscovy is kosher, but there is no necessity to be Maikel and therefore it is a matter of not approving it for regular commercial kosher consumption. I would also assume that both these Gedolei Torah would consult with and strongly consider the opinion of Rav Dr. Zivotofsky who I and others have mentioned in these comment. Read his article here

  11. 1) Turkey was approved ny most gedolei yisroel, Muscovy was prohibited. Those that were “matir” Muscovy, it was with a caveat. 2) KJ claimed the whole time that theirs were Pekins, now all of a sudden the tune changed to Muscovy is allowed. 3) KJ dayonim claim that they sent a duck to a lab for DNA analysis two and a haf weeks ago, I hear that the results are in, why not publish them? 4) One of the Satmar dayonim in Boro Park told someone that he saw the ducksat a previous “shechitah” (not 28 Kislev) and they had some black on their heads, so why the recall only on the lot of 28 Kislev? 5) How come that at all other “shechitahs”, every bird has a “plumba’, incuding KJ chickens, why not the “katchkes”? Isn’t this an invitation for another Finkel fiasco? 6) And last but not least. This past Friday morning there was an anouncement on Kol Satmar hotline (212 444-9899) that at a meeting called by the rebbe (R’ Aron) it was decidet that since there was a “michshol” at another slaughterhoused in PA. they realized that even with the Pekin there was a problem with the “mesorah”, they should issue a recall. – In the afternoon they were made aware how ludicrous this sound and they pulled it.

  12. To SG: Your learned letter is a good statement. More likely than not, as you indicate, the Muskovy should not be considered as an Oif Tuma, as so catagorized by Rav Roth. The OU, taking into account that some Gedolim in the past have permitted consumption of the Muskovy, but because of the those prohibiting it coupled with the contemporary abundnce of food, decline to permit it. The OU decision seems to be logical as well as practical. The consideration of Mesorah in regard to other birds is normative, especially for Ashkenazim. In regard to the turkey, as mentioned in many places, many descendants of the Shelo Hakodesh refrain from eating it because of its lack of Mesorah. Interestingly, some, a few admittedly, families have a tradition of not eating tuna since it, too, does not have a Mesorah. All in all, your letter is thorough and sensible. The OU position is a practical application of Halacha and circumstance. Thank you.


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