Is Duck Unclean Meat?

I posed a question in Facebook: “If you were raised Adventist, did you grow up believing it was okay to eat chicken and turkey but not duck or goose? If so, why or why not? Please feel free to comment.” The following conversation ensued:

AS: Yes. My mum said she was a vegetarian but we always had a roast chicken at Christmas and Easter. The difference between that and the duck was that the water birds have webbed feet so they were “unclean.”

Me: Yes, that’s what I grew up believing, too. However, I have not been able to find a Bible verse for that. Lev 11 and Deut 14 talk about the animals that chew cud and have split hoof being “clean” and fish with scales and fins. But it only lists birds that are “unclean” and so presumes that anything not in that list is “clean.” That includes not only chicken and turkey but duck and goose!

EP: In my home we ate meat, but only chicken, turkey, and beef. Learned from an early age in parochial (SDA) school the directions in Leviticus 11. To this day, even though am no longer SDA, cannot for the life of me even think of eating shellfish, ham, duck, goose, etc. It’s a part of my life and I don’t miss what I haven’t eaten.

RO: We grew up thinking nothing with a face or a mother. Vegetables like potatoes with eyes were okay.

MH: I like how Richard put it. “Nothing with a face.” We were the same. No fish, no chicken, nothing that wasn’t planted.

AY: No meat of any kind. All meat was evil and my mom said if I ate even one bite I couldn’t go to heaven on this body. It always mystified me as to why she thought I’d want to keep this body. And I do love me some bacon but I go vegetarian or vegan for a few months at a time sometimes.

SM: Interesting question. I didn’t eat much duck or goose growing up, but not because I believed it to be unclean. For whatever reason, I always believed that only birds of prey and birds that eat carrion were unclean. [He actually didn’t eat ANY duck or goose.]

LD: I’m shocked, truly. Not just shocked but ticked. Just did a web search, “kosher chicken vs duck.” Chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese are all kosher. Why’d they lie to us?
Kosher slaughter is both extremely simple and extremely complicated, but here we present you with an overview of the process and the basics of the laws. The most important piece to understand about kosher meat is that this is an ancient practice that is carried out using today’s technology to ensure reliability, safety, and kashrut.
The first step in kosher meat is the actual species of meat. Chicken, turkey, duck and geese are all kosher species; there are varying traditions regarding the kashrut of other fowls, such as quail, pheasant, squib and pigeons. Birds of prey are generally not kosher.
For larger animals, kosher laws permit the consumption of species that both chew their cud and have split hooves. This includes, cows, sheep, goats, bison, deer, elk, and even giraffe, though beef and lamb are generally the most common meat in the kosher marketplace.

Me: Yep, that’s what I found out, too, from my research! I don’t know why the “brethren” had to make up stuff, like God said not to eat anything with webbed feet, when that was never the case!

EP: Am so confused. Have taken it as freaking gospel about “fowl+webbed feet and/or hopping while looking for food, vs walking (am not making this up) were definitions of clean vs unclean. Just re-read the entire chapter of Lev. 11 (what I’ve quoted for years) and can’t find the part about ducks, geese, etc. For the record, can plainly recall the teacher explaining to us in school (SDA school of course) the reason we didn’t eat robins, cardinals, etc. were because they “hopped,” whereas chicken and turkey actually walk when they’re eating. People, realize this sounds stupid but I’m not making it up. Of course my next course of action is an email to one of the church pastors to ask “WHY?”
As I indicated earlier in this thread, contacted a well-known and respected SDA theologian who penned this response to me. He also gave me permission to share his answer with this group but only if I did so anonymously (for obvious reasons). Here goes:
Thanks for taking the time to write and ask me this question.
Like you, I was raised with the directive that ducks and geese (and similar water fowl like swans) are unclean. I don’t recall the hop versus walk distinction (and growing up with chickens, I’ve seen them do both) and I don’t remember hearing about webbed feet either. So honestly, I’m not sure why chicken/turkey was OK but geese were not.
So, like you I did a Google search and it didn’t take me long to find that at least according to Leviticus and Deuteronomy that I was taught wrong. Here’s a helpful list that I found in my search–you probably saw this one as well: [URL deleted as it is no longer available]. And sure enough, in searching the webs about Adventists and unclean meat I came across discussions regarding duck. The best I can figure is that the idea that duck and similar water fowl might be unclean has to do with the KJV translation of the Leviticus and Deuteronomy passages which renders one Hebrew word as “swan” and thus if swans are unclean then ducks and geese (pretty much swans with shorter necks) are out as well. But the “swan” translation has since been discredited by further Biblical scholarship—the main problem being that many of the more obscure animal names are difficult to know for certain.
As for all of this being a “lie”, I’m not sure I would go so far as to call it lying (I know you weren’t saying this but quoting someone). I know that with my parents, at least, they were trying to live and raise us according to what the rest of the Adventist community did at the time. In many ways they have changed since then. And, during the era when only the KJV was read, seeing the word “swan” in Lev/Deut would have pretty much sealed the deal.
So, bottom line I guess is that I see nothing from an unclean standpoint in the Bible as prohibiting the consumption of any water fowl.
Thanks for asking. That was an interesting study. Next we’ll get to your question about the Israelites killing the Canaanites and all the all other -ites. 🙂

LD: Come to think of it, I even had an SDA relative tell me the duck eggs were unclean after I told her that I had bought some at a local food co-op. She wasn’t nasty about it at all; we were just having a discussion. I believe she brought up the webbed foot distinction. I responded that I hadn’t even thought about that.
Plus, yes, my referring to the teaching re: conventional wisdom referring to clean vs unclean fowl as lying was overreacting. Our elders were indeed doing their best to keep us on the right path…

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