Is turkey kosher?

Your turkey craving conscience can rest after reading this post.

The Question

Over the centuries, there has been much debate in theological circles over the question of whether turkey is kosher. I didn’t want to chicken out of this question, so I decided to take a stab at figuring out how to carve this bird.

Concerning the use of birds as food, the Bible states,

13 ‘And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, 14 the kite, and the falcon after its kind; 15 every raven after its kind, 16 the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind; 17 the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl; 18 the white owl, the jackdaw, and the carrion vulture; 19 the stork, the heron after its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat.

Leviticus 11:13-19 (NKJV)

The phrase “after its kind” is frequently repeated. So I decided to study the taxonomies of turkey and the other birds cited as forbidden, to see if they might belong to the same family or genus.

Burrowing Owl (not mentioned specifically, but presumed unclean)

The Classification of the Birds

The birds listed in Leviticus are the eagle, vulture, buzzard, kite, falcon, raven, ostrich, owl, sea gull, hawk, jackdaw, stork, heron, and hoopoe.  The bat is also mentioned.

I’m no expert in taxonomy, so I spent about three hours going through whatever information I could find on Infogalactic.  After sorting through everything, I found that the taxonomical divergence between the turkey and these other birds occurs between Class and Order.  They do not share any relation by Family or Genus.


All the birds listed are in the class of Aves, except the bat, which is a mammal.

The stork and heron are in a large subclass, Neomithes.


The eagle, vulture, buzzard*, kite, and hawk belong to the order Accipitriformes.

The falcon belongs to the order Falconiformes.

The raven and jackdaw belong to the order Passeriformes.

The ostrich belongs to the order Struthioniformes.

The owl belongs to the order Strigiformes.

The sea gull belongs to the order Charadriiformes.

The hoopoe belongs to the order Bucerotiformes.

But the turkey belongs to the order Galliformes!

* There are many types of birds that are called a buzzard.  Most of these resemble the hawk, and are included in the order of Accipitriformes and the family of Accipitridae. One exception is the turkey buzzard, which is in the order of Cathartiformes.

See the source image
Turkey (clean!)

About Passeriformes

This order deserves attention because it covers half of all bird species, and contains more than 110 families. One family, Corvidae, is a cosmopolitan family of oscine passerine birds.  Over 120 species are described, including crows, ravens, rooks, jackdaws, jays, magpies, treepies, choughs, nutcrackers, and the vast majority of anything that could be described as a songbird. They are considered the most intelligent of the birds, and among the most intelligent of all animals.  The genus Corvus, including the jackdaws, crows, and ravens, makes up over a third of the entire family.

See the source image
Jackdaw (unclean)

About Caprimulgiformes

This order is not included among any of the birds in Leviticus, so it is presumed to be clean.  I found this order to be interesting, as it contains hummingbirds, swifts, nightjars, nighthawks, whippoorwills, and potoos. These birds are generally insectivorous and nocturnal, and many are crepuscular.

See the source image
Whippoorwill (clean)

About Galliformes

The Galliformes are an order of heavy-bodied ground-feeding birds that includes turkeygrousechickenNew World quail and Old World quailptarmiganpartridgepheasantjunglefowl, and the Cracidae.

The name derives from “gallus”, Latin for “cock” or “rooster”. Common names are gamefowl or gamebirdslandfowlgallinaceous birds, or galliforms. “Wildfowl” or just “fowl” are also often used for the Galliformes, but usually these terms also refer to waterfowl (Anseriformes), and occasionally to other commonly hunted birds.

This order contains five familiesPhasianidae (including chicken, quail, partridges, pheasants, turkeys, peafowl, and grouse), Odontophoridae (New World quails), Numididae (guineafowl), Cracidae (including chachalacas and curassows), and Megapodiidae (incubator birds like mallee fowl and brush-turkeys).

Despite their distinctive appearance, grouse and turkeys probably do not warrant separation as families due to their recent origin from partridge– or pheasant-like birds.

See the source image
Great Curassow (clean)


From a taxonomic viewpoint, the turkey is not anywhere closely related to any of the birds described as unclean in Leviticus.  For me, this settles the question once and for all as to whether turkey is unclean.  If you believe Acts 10:9-16 and Acts 11:4-10, then it probably doesn’t matter very much anyway, but there may be some readers who are more particular about this matter.

I have only tasted one kind of bird that is forbidden in Leviticus, and that is the ostrich.  It is surprisingly delicious and tastes like hamburger mixed with savory herbs. I’ve heard that this meat is popular in Australia.


All information in this post was gathered from Infogalactic.


See the source image
Hoopoe (unclean)

Appendix – The taxonomy of turkey and the birds cited in Leviticus

Colored fonts indicate groups of like order.

Bird: Turkey
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Phasianidae
Subfamily: Meleagridinae
Genus: Meleagris
Species: M. gallopavo; M. ocellata;

Bird: Buzzard
There are many types of birds that are called a buzzard.  (Click on the link for a list.)  Most of these are included in the order of Accipitriformes and the family of Accipitridae. One exception is the turkey buzzard, which is in the order of Cathartiformes (same as the condor).

Bird: Eagle
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae

Bird: Hawk
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae

Bird: Kite
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae

Bird: Vulture
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Families: Accipitridae (Aegypiinae); Cathartidae;

Bird: Falcon
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Falconidae
Subfamily: Falconinae
Genus: Falco

Bird: Hoopoe
Class: Aves
Order: Bucerotiformes
Family: Upupidae
Genus: Upupa
Species: U. epops

Bird: Heron
Class: Aves
Subclass: Neornithes
Infraclass: Neognathae
Superorder: Neoaves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Ardeidae

Bird: Stork
Class: Aves
Subclass: Neornithes
Infraclass: Neognathae
Superorder: Aequornithes
Order: Ciconiiformes
Family: Ciconiidae

Bird: Jackdaw
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Corvidae
Genus: Corvus
Subgenus: Coloeus
Species: C. monedula (western); C. dauuricus (eastern);

Bird: Raven
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Corvidae
Genus: Corvus
Species: C. corax

Bird: Ostrich
Class: Aves
Superorder: Paleognathae
Order: Struthioniformes
Family: Struthionidae
Genus: Struthio
Species: S. camelus

Bird: Owl
Class: Aves
Clade: Afroaves
Order: Strigiformes
Families: Strigidae; Tytonidae

Bird: Sea Gull
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Suborder: Lari
Family: Laridae

Mammal: Bat
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Clade: Scrotifera
Order: Chiroptera
Suborders: Megachiroptera; Microchiroptera;

About Jack

Jack is a world traveling artist, skilled in trading ideas and information, none of which are considered too holy, too nerdy, nor too profane to hijack and twist into useful fashion. Sigma Frame Mindsets and methods for building and maintaining a masculine Frame
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4 Responses to Is turkey kosher?

  1. cameron232 says:

    Supposedly, Muscovy duck has a rich, dark red meat.

    I’ll eat Turkey today cause ‘merica, but I prefer goose – I like fatty dark meat.


  2. Scott says:

    Happy thanksgiving..

    To be thankful for: we live in a country where everything you could possibly need is available without even leaving the house and our buildings control the climate and you can flush your crap down the toilet and flick a switch and the lights come on or turn a faucet and fresh water magically flows and we have vehicles that can reliably take us thousands of miles with zero maintenance and most things you catch won’t kill you because of modern medicine there are no existential threats like war at your doorstep and…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ed Hurst says:

    It’s pretty hard to get behind the the reason God chose which birds were kosher or not. Including bats in the question shows that our taxonomy is unlikely to matter much, but there’s little else to go on. And to be honest, I really don’t trust modern Jews to understand the ancient Hebrew thinking any more. Then again, I really don’t care what’s kosher any way.


  4. feeriker says:

    I really don’t care what’s kosher any way.

    Ditto. It is a LOT of fun, however, to cook treif with kosher ingredients (e.g., matzoh meal-incrusted pork chops, matzoh meal-breaded shrimp, matzoh balls in Chinese pork blood soup, or bacon-wrapped kosher hot dogs).


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