OU Position on Certifying Specific Animals and Birds

Daf Notes: The following article is taken from the soon to be published Sourcebook of the Three Day Harry H. Beren LA Halachic Adventure which is to take place Bs’d August 5-7. We thank Rabbi Seth Mandel and Rabbi Chaim Loike for their efforts in transcribing Rav Yisroel Belsky Shlita’s response concerning the specific animals and birds listed below.

Regarding mammals, the OU position is given in the article about bison (Document B-55). If it is clear after careful study that the mammal has split hooves and chews its cud exactly as most kosher animals, the OU will accept it as a kosher species, as this is the position of all Poskim except the Chazon Ish and some in Israel who follow the Chazon Ish. However, unless there is a clear mesorah as to whether the animal is a b’hemah or a chaya, the mammal will be considered a sofekkisui hadam will be performed without a bracha, and the animal will be considered to have chelev.

Regarding cases where some communities have a clear mesorah permitting other animals, and other communities avoided it, the OU will not give certification, as is the case with grasshoppers. This is not because the OU relies only on an Ashkenazic mesorah, but because OU certification means that the item may be eaten by everyone according to halacha. If the animal was avoided in certain communities, that may indicate that those communities had a mesorah that it was not kosher. In such cases, OU certification is inappropriate; the OU will not give a certification for an item which may be eaten only by Teimanim, or only by Hungarians.

However, if a particular animal did not exist in a particular community, the fact that the community has no mesorah to eat it is not considered evidence that it has a mesorah not to eat it. In the case of grasshoppers, it is clear from Rashi that many species of grasshoppers existed in Europe in his time and were known by the Jews, but the Ashkenaz communities did not eat any of them. This is considered a mesorah that they are not eaten, and so the OU would not certify them, even though Teimanim have a mesorah and can rely on their mesorah. But if certain species of bird did not exist at all in Germany, for example, and existed only in the Iraq, testimony from an authoritative source from Iraq that that specific bird was shechted and eaten in Iraq would suffice to permit the bird.

Such testimony must be from an expert shochet and recognized authority, and must be given about a specific animal that was shown to the expert. Testimony from someone in the community who was not a shochet, or not an expert on species, that the bird was eaten, would not be considered sufficient. In addition, testimony by an expert that a bird called “X” was permitted would not be sufficient. Names of creatures are not valid for identification purposes, since in hundreds of cases a creature is called one thing in one community and another thing elsewhere. The bird must be shown to the expert who is giving the testimony, and only that specific species is then considered to have a mesorah.

Specific examples are listed below. Much of the relevant material, both halachic and historical, has been presented later in this book.

Quail

There are multiple species called quail. There was a well-accepted tradition in Europe to eat coturnix coturnix and coturnix japonica. Other species of quail, such as Scaled Quail and Gambel’s Quail, will not be permitted by the OU unless and until a valid mesorah for that specific species is obtained.

Partridge

The OU has obtained testimony from an expert shochet from Europe that the species called in Latin Perdix perdix was eaten. Another species, Rock partridge or Chuker in English, Alectoris chukar and Alectoris graaca in Latin, lives in desert areas and was not known in Europe. We have testimony from two experts, one from Yemen and one from Iraq, that it was shechted in both places. So the OU will certify these species, but not other partridge species.

Pigeon, Dove and Sparrow

There are multiple species called by these names. There was a well-accepted tradition in Europe (and the Middle East) to eat the pigeon called Columba livia in Latin, the turtle dove of the turtur family, and the sparrow called Passer domesticus. Other species would require an acceptable mesorah.

Mallard Duck

There was the responsum of the Maharsham (Siman 56 and 138) that a kind of wild duck with a completely black beak was not to be eaten but if the beak was not completely black then it was permitted. Most poskim (e.g. Zivchei Tzedek vol. I, 82:18, Kaf HaChaim Y”D 82:23, Kreisi Upleisi Kuntrus Penei Nesher) permitted ducks with black on the beak. The OU will not certify wild ducks with black beaks. Many mallard ducks have yellow or white beaks, with a dark spot or band on the beak. The OU will certify those since the color of the beaks is primarily yellow or white.

Guinea Fowl, Peacock

The OU has not obtained testimony from experts about the permissibility of either of these birds. They will not be permitted by the OU unless and until a valid mesorah for that specific species is obtained.

Muscovy Duck

There were relatively many t’shuvos 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.

Locusts and grasshoppers

As discussed above, the OU will not certify any species of grasshopper or locusts. This does not mean a p’sak halocho that no one may eat them; Teimanim or Moroccan Jews who have a mesorah about which are the permitted species could eat that species (assuming, of course, they they have sufficient expertise to distinguish the permitted species from others). However, OU certification is not appropriate.