Many cultures have different dietary rules which decide what foods should and should not be eaten.
In Judaism, there is a set of guidelines which some Jewish communities follow when choosing their diets, called “kosher”.
As parrot owners, we’re horrified that someone might consider our beloved pets as fit for their next meal, but there is nothing uncivilized about diverse eating habits.
In this article, we’ll ask, are parrots kosher?
Parrots are not kosher. This is because their toes are parted, meaning they have two at the front and two at the back. This puts them in a similar category to birds of prey, which are not kosher and should not be eaten according to traditional Jewish guidelines.
In this article, we’ll explore what goes into a kosher diet, and then zoom in to look at what makes a bird kosher, and whether any other cultures like to eat parrots.
Let’s get into it!
What is a kosher diet?
The term “kosher” describes food that complies with traditional Jewish dietary standards.
These rules explain what foods Jewish people should consume, and how to produce, process and prepare them.
The exact practices differ between individual Jewish people and communities.
Kosher guidelines forbid the pairing of any meat and dairy product, and you must wait between 1 and 6 hours (depending on which Jewish customs you follow) to eat any dairy after eating meat.
Utensils for preparing meat and dairy must be kept separate, even to the extent that they must be washed in different sinks.
Kosher guidelines generally refer to only mammals and birds as “meat”, and fish are considered in a separate category.
Meat from mammals must come from ruminant animals with split hooves, such as beef or lamb.
The animal must be slaughtered by a professional butcher educated in Jewish laws, called a shochet.
The meat also has to be soaked before cooking to make sure any traces of blood have been washed away.
What birds are considered kosher?
In the Torah, the original Jewish sacred text, 24 classes of non-kosher birds are identified.
Unfortunately, these bird names are described in biblical-Hebrew and it is difficult to identify what they mean today.
A few signs are offered in Jewish law to help determine whether a bird is kosher.
Birds that are kosher must not be birds of prey, and must have an “extra” toe, a crop, and/or a gizzard that can be peeled.
It is debated how many of these features have to be present to qualify a bird as kosher.
Jewish law says that “any bird that claws” is not kosher, but there is debate about what this means.
It could mean birds that use their claws to eat (meat or other foods), or birds that pounce on prey with their claws, or even birds that inject venom into their prey.
An alternative definition is that any bird that “parts its toes” is not kosher.
Kosher birds have an “extra” toe, meaning one toe that is behind or above the other toes, like chicken feet.
They also have a crop, which is a pouch-like organ which stores undigested food until the digestive tract has space for it.
Finally, kosher birds have a gizzard in their digestive tract which is lined with skin and can be peeled using your hands.
So, are parrots kosher?
If you’re a parrot owner, you’ll probably be pleased to know that parrots do not feature on lists of common kosher birds.
However, as they are not commonly eaten in many cultures, this may not mean parrots are definitively not kosher.
Let’s look at the features of parrots.
Parrots are not birds of prey as they mostly eat grains and fruits, and do not hunt relatively large animals as a regular part of their diet.
This would suggest they potentially could be kosher, but do they possess the other features of kosher birds?
Parrots do not have one extra toe.
Take a look at your pet parrot when it is standing on a rope or the bars of its cage.
It should have two toes at the front and two at the back.
This counts as parting its toes, this means that according to Jewish law they are not kosher.
However, parrots do have a crop and a gizzard.
The crop helps parrots in the wild to eat more than they need to so they can save more for later.
They also have a gizzard, which performs the same function as chewing does in mammals since parrots don’t have teeth.
Do people eat parrots?
Of course, it’s reasonable to eat parrots if you’re in a life-or-death situation, but in developed countries, this is not a very common practice.
Some indigenous peoples who live in the Amazon rainforest still hunt and eat parrots as they are more widely available in these environments.
Shooting parrots might also be a way for these communities to prevent any damage from coming to their crops, which parrots might want to snack on!
In cases like this, it’s better to eat the parrot that to shoot it and waste it.
Because many parrots are endangered species, international trade of them is highly regulated which prevents them being over exploited.
The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) agreement, signed by 183 counties, regulates the trading of all but 4 species of parrot.
This might be a reason that parrots are something you are unlikely to find on your supermarket shelves.
According to traditional Jewish laws, many foods that are common in other cultures are not considered kosher, which means it is forbidden to eat them.
Birds must have a number of features to make them kosher and therefore fit for consumption.
Parrots are not kosher because their toes are parted, whereas kosher birds have feet with one toe facing backwards.
In this article, we’ve discussed what a kosher diet is, as well as how to identify a kosher bird.
We even looked at some cultures where eating parrots is considered completely normal!