Chicken Controversy Continues // New Proclamations About The Brakel Chicken

By Isaac Horovitz

It would seem that after much discussion and deliberation focusing on facts and feathers, the outcome of the battle of the Brakel that has been brewing over the past few weeks in the world of halachah has more or less been settled against the Brakel and in favor of the chicken on your plate.

To summarize the story in short: Over the past few years a group of machmirim came together in search of a new chicken. The initiative was the result of a ruling by Rav Shmuel Halevi Wosner, zt”l, and Rav Nissim Karelitz, who ruled that there is reason to be concerned that commercially-farmed chicken might not have a mesorah of kashrus due to the prevalence of hybridization in the industry. Thus, the “taharas ha’ofos” (bird purity) committee was established at the initiative of the financial directors of the Eidah Hachareidis’ Vaad Hashechitah and with the support of a chasidic philanthropist, Reb Berel Weiss.

They conducted a search—that has now been deemed insufficiently professional—for an unadulterated chicken, and decided to bring the Brakel chicken from Belgium to Israel, believing it had never been subject to any hybridization. That part was correct. The question was whether the Brakel is acceptable for eating in accordance with the mesorah pertaining to birds. Experienced, older shochatim were asked. Some testified that yes, they had slaughtered these birds before, but other said they had not. It fell to the gedolim and poskim to determine its nature and background.

The beis din of Bnei Brak, headed by Rav Moshe Shaul Klein, ruled based on the recollections of a number of senior shochatim that it is indeed a bird that was eaten according to the mesorah. On the other hand, the raavad of the Eidah Hachareidis, Rav Moshe Sternbuch, ruled it assur because this bird had no history of being eaten and may not even be a chicken at all.

Rav Moshe Yehuda Leib Landa, the rav of Bnei Brak, did something none of the other rabbanim had yet done. Instead of inviting the businessmen involved in this venture to bring him a bird of their choosing to inspect, he surprised them and went down to the Brakel coops in Beit Shemesh. At first the farmers refused to let the rav in, and it was only after a good deal of persuasion that they agreed. Rav Landa examined the birds for a significant amount of time, and came out with an unequivocal decision: The Brakel is treif; it has no connection with any birds that Jews have eaten in the past.

The pronouncement crossed the ocean, where there were plans to introduce this chicken to kosher consumers in the US and Canada through an agricultural company in California that had been raising these chickens for two years.

The largest chareidi slaughterhouse for chickens in the New York-area is in Kiryas Yoel, where about 60,000 chickens are slaughtered every day, under the hashgachah of the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Aharon Teitelbaum. Therefore, Rav Landa decided to write a special letter to the Rebbe in which he wrote harsh words against the Brakel. The letter was received at the offices of Rav Sternbuch’s son in Kiryas Yoel.

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