Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Chicken Conspiracy Theory

Good news - the Chicken Wars monograph is now available in Hebrew! Click here to download it. The English edition is still available here.

While I was researching the Chicken Wars, there were some mysteries which came up with the Braekel enterprise. If the Braekel people truly believed that all regular chickens were not kosher, then why did they keep their efforts pretty much secret until this past summer? Why weren't they publicizing all along that there is a problem with regular chickens, and that people should try to obtain Braekels?

Another question is this: There are countless old breeds of chicken. Why did they pick the Braekel? In fact, of all the old breeds of chicken, the Braekel is somewhat problematic - in the 1970s, there were so few Braekels left in the world that other lines were bred into it. So it's not even a purebred line! Why was it picked to be the kosher chicken?

Here's an explanation that I was given. I can't reveal my sources, but they are very, very good.

It was Rav Shmuel Wosner who originally raised a concern with modern chickens, twenty years ago. He was the person responsible for the hunt to find a pure, traditional chicken. But, according to what I was told, he was always emphatic that if such a chicken were to be found, it should not be presented as the *only* kosher chicken; rather, it should be presented as a preferable alternative.

Now, there's a problem with engaging in such an enterprise, from a business perspective. Any heritage breed of chicken is much less economically viable than modern chickens, which were specifically developed to grow much fatter on much less food and in much less time than traditional chickens. So the only way to make any money off it is to charge a very high price for it, and to make sure that plenty of people are going to buy it. How do you do that? Well, you're going to have to control the only supply of such chickens, so that you can charge whatever you want.

But how do you control the only supply of kosher chickens? Well, you're going to have to make sure that the breed which you sell is the only one that you have proclaimed to be kosher, and it's going to have to be a very rare breed that nobody else can get their hands on.

Thus, in order to make money here, they had to wait until Rav Wosner passed away, then pick a very rare heritage breed - the Braekel - that nobody else would be able to obtain, and then wait further until they had raised enough to start marketing them with the sole monopoly, and then declare the Braekel to be the only kosher chicken.

If all this is true, then although the Braekel is indeed a kosher breed (albeit not superior to any other), it is supreme poetic justice that the majority of the charedi rabbinic establishment declared it not to be kosher at all. Unfortunately, many people suffered as a result, since the Braekel enterprise stirred up enough controversy that there are now many hundreds of families in Israel and New York who are not eating chicken at all. I am very much hoping that my monograph will encourage people to start thinking differently about all this.

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29 comments:

  1. Chicken abstinence is a small price to pay for gullibility.

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  2. Anyone dumb enough to fall for this isn't going to read your monograph and say "Oh, I guess all chicken is fine"

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    1. "fall for this" -- by "this", do you mean R' Slifkin's essay? If so, you basically called it dumb without offering a scintilla of backup.

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  3. and it's going to have to be a very rare breed that nobody else can get their hands on

    Are there less rare breeds of "heritage" chickens?

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  4. There is much to comment, however i will point out just one. You may have to tweak the way you bring down the Netziv: please see here his exact wording:


    איברא הא שכ' מעכ"ה שהמה פרים ורבים זמ"ז, היה ראיה חזקה להכשיר וכמש"כ הרמב"ם בה' מ"א פ"א דאין טמא מתעבר מטהור כלל, ולפי הפשט אין נ"מ בין בהמה וחיה לעוף בזה, אלא שבע"כ צריכים אנו להטיל ספק גם בזה, שהרי אנו מחזיקים בר אווז הבר לטמא והוא פו"ר מאווז שלנו, מ"מ אם יש לעמוד ע"ז שהמה יזדווגו זע"ז אפילו בשעה שיש זכרים ונקבות משני מיני אווזות אלו יחד, יש להוכיח שהם מין אחד, וכדאיתא בב"מ (דף צא) דמין למינו ושאינו מינו, כיון דאיכא מיניה בתר מיניה גריר:

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  5. In the monograph you mistakenly place Netziv in the camp that holds that the principle that אין טמא מתעבר מטהור כלל. Netziv does raise this argument, but then calls it into doubt:
    איברא הא שכ' מעכ"ה שהמה פרים ורבים זמ"ז, היה ראיה חזקה להכשיר וכמש"כ
    הרמב"ם בה' מ"א פ"א דאין טמא מתעבר מטהור כלל, ולפי הפשט אין נ"מ בין
    בהמה וחיה לעוף בזה, אלא שבע"כ צריכים אנו להטיל ספק גם בזה, שהרי אנו
    מחזיקים בר אווז הבר לטמא והוא פו"ר מאווז שלנו

    Netziv then goes on to make the point that you make in the name of R. Shalom Taubes, that if they breed naturally and freely they must both be of the same min (not just that they are kosher, but perhaps of a different min):
    מ"מ אם יש לעמוד ע"ז
    שהמה יזדווגו זע"ז אפילו בשעה שיש זכרים ונקבות משני מיני אווזות אלו
    יחד, יש להוכיח שהם מין אחד, וכדאיתא בב"מ (דף צא) דמין למינו ושאינו
    מינו, כיון דאיכא מיניה בתר מיניה גריר:

    Thus, Netziv doesn't actually say what you attribute to him, he actually supports your entire thesis perfectly.

    S.S.

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    1. Thank you very much for pointing this out!

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  6. Kudos Rav Slivkin - A voice for at least some rationalism in Judaism. Only bird brains would claim only a certain variety of chicken is kosher. Bloody Ell. ACJA

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    1. I hope you wern't referring to rav Landau shlit'a in that manner.

      Did he say that the Bracke is not a chicken or it is a chicken but not a kosher one?

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  7. That's some story. And it all makes sense: the conniving, the dishonesty, all to make money. Can't wait for them to go out of business.

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  8. Not such a bad thing for Jews to be eating less chicken!

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    1. Where are you coming from? Are you that vegetarian author from the old city who couldn't keep the soup down ?

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    2. Eating less meat - especially of the mass-produced and processed kind - can only benefit the health of people.

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    3. Chicken is not meat.
      Chicken is healthy.
      Plenty of chicken out there not "processed" at all.
      You are spouting nonsense.

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    4. (Absolutely amazing book, BTW)

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  9. Where is your verifiable evidence that "many hundreds of families in Israel and New York are not eating chicken at all"?

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    1. I am curious about that, too. There may be families who've never eaten chicken for various reasons, but "many hundreds" who have stopped eating it b/c of this business dispute? Unlikely.

      On the main point, no doubt whatsoever that its all money-driven. It was obvious from the jump, even without sources. Most things related to kashrus supervision are. Not to say there isn't a kernel of halachic difference between the disputants. But these differences are invariably minor and inconsequential and usually turn on late minority opinions no one cares about anyway. Such controversies are generally manufactured simply to create a pretext and justification for the business venture.

      This is all a side effect of religious Jews having no relationship or business intercourse with anyone except other religious Jews. It limits business opportunities, and thus forces Jews to invent reasons for market share within the tiny segment of the economy in which they sell.

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    2. DF, that's what I was told by people in the field.

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  10. The story you tell here is the one I heard from the outset. And it's the real reason why there was such a push back against Braekel.
    The arguments in your monograph are irrelevant.

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    1. The actual halachah is not relevant?

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    2. Not relevant in terms of the bigger picture, which is what the push back to Braekel is about.

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    3. Not when money is on the line!

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    4. I'm not following. If there was a halachic issue, then the story would be different, no?

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  11. This entire "controversy" is stupid beyond belief.

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  12. ...in order to make money here, they had to wait until Rav Wosner passed away

    Are you series? What if the rav lived to 120?

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    Replies
    1. They may not have been literally waiting. After he passed away, they seized the opportunity.

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  13. A friend asked me how Rabbi Landau's opinion could be so easily dismissed. He insists that Rabbi Landau is both very familiar with scientific inquiry and is not overwhelmed by authoritative pressure. Have you looked into his position on the subject?

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  14. I love the graphic, by the way. :)

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