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Is the main considerations on what meat is Kosher made public in Leviticus 11 or is there other Jewish sources that may give further illumination on what food is considered kosher?

Also is there uniformity in regards to Jewish sects on what consist of Kosher foods or are there certain food stuffs that are notorious for being divisive on the issue of being kosher?

I'm also curious as to whether more niche foul like Partridge, Guinea Fowl or Ostrich meat is also considered Kosher?

  • It would not be possible to completely understand the laws of kashrut from Leviticus. There is extensive literature on the topic, and the answer is likely far too long to be given here. – Daniel Jul 13 '15 at 14:46
  • I understand that some restaurants in Israel serve quail. I have had quail eggs, but not quail. Someone who ate quail told me that it tasted like something he had a few thousand years ago, but without all that sand ;-) – DanF Jul 13 '15 at 17:57
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With only some exceptions, the animals listed in the Torah are of something that Jews today are uncertain about how to associate with the correct animal today.

Kosher in animals is generally determined by having split hooves and chewing cud. That is the physical properties of the animal make it Kosher.

Regarding birds, the understanding is that the Torah, choosing to make the smaller list, lists only non-Kosher birds. Kosher birds are more numerous. However since there is uncertainty about what those non-Kosher birds are, exactly, in practice the list of Kosher birds are quite small - only those that we have a tradition about being a Kosher bird is Kosher.

The Talmud does provide, as for animals, signs of a Kosher bird. However, not all Jewish communities rely on being able to recognize them correctly.

Turkey, given the above, is probably the most "controversial" Kosher bird. Since it is a New World bird, it lacks the tradition, but there are many who eat it anyway.

Regarding the three birds you asked about, Ostrich is a common translation of the first bird in Leviticus 11:16, so it is not treated as Kosher.

As to the other two, this Star-K article says:

As an example, we suspected that the guinea fowl was kosher. So we purchased two guinea fowl, put them in a cage on top of the car, and headed out to look for old shochtim and rabbanim who may have slaughtered or supervised its slaughter in the old country. Being a bird native to North Africa, we tried North Africans and Yemenites.

We started with the Yemenite shochet who had taught us. No luck. He directed us to several others. Still no one recognized it. At least we were impressed with their honesty. After several attempts around Jerusalem, we were ready to give up. The following day we took the guinea fowl to an old distinguished rabbi in the Har Nof section of Jerusalem. With a faint glimmer of recognition, the rabbi asked that one be removed from the cage so he could better examine it. Nope, he did not recognize the bird.

But that clever guinea took the opportunity and bolted from the room. The scene that followed, with the old rabbi in his long caftan chasing the bird, could have been out of any comedy movie. If anyone should happen to find a stray, odd-looking, lost bird in Jerusalem, it just might be our missing guinea.

Our perseverance finally paid off. While returning from shechting a deer in Tzefas we still had (one) guinea as a traveling partner. We stopped in to see Rabbi Elbaz, an old Algerian shochet. We had struck gold. He unquestionably recognized the bird and attested to the fact that he had slaughtered it in Algeria close to fifty years ago.

Our next subject was the partridge, another bird we suspected was kosher. Here we were having even greater difficulty. Finally I recalled that once, while researching the small Aramaic-speaking community in Israel, their chief rabbi had told me that he had slaughtered a bird named “keklik” in Turkish. Some quick reserach revealed he was talking about the partridge. Pay dirt again. We brought him the bird, he ID’ed it, and we were on our way with another tradition.

  • Warning - eat this comment with a "spot" of gravy - Turkey controversial??? You mean that the Jews who arrived on the Mayflower ate traif after they traded with the "Indians"? – DanF Jul 13 '15 at 17:54
  • @DanF, I added a link to the question about turkey. Not sure if your comment was entirely a joke, or only partially. – Yishai Jul 13 '15 at 17:58
  • Am I correct in assuming that ostrich eggs will also then be non kosher? – Neil Meyer Jul 13 '15 at 18:01
  • @NeilMeyer, yes, only eggs from a Kosher bird are Kosher. – Yishai Jul 13 '15 at 18:05
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This Star-K article delves into a discussion of the kashrut of partridges, pheasants and locusts.

There is also some additional information on the topic via Natan Slifkin's studies on various animals on www.zootorah.com. I don't have access, now, to locate the exact articles. Perhaps, I can edit this in, later. I understand that he is a highly controversial figure, but, I haven't followed the news to understand if such controversy relates to his animal findings and conclusions per-se.

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