Can America hold Great Britain together through haggis importation?

by on July 5, 2014 at 4:10 pm in Food and Drink, Law, Political Science | Permalink

The British government is pulling out all the stops for Scotland with a referendum on independence two months away, going so far as to lobby the United States government to allow the importation of that famous Scottish delicacy made from sheep’s innards, haggis.

The problem, it seems, is sheep lungs, which the United States banned for consumption in 1971. But lungs are vital to traditional haggis, which usually also contains minced sheep heart and liver, mixed with onion, oatmeal, suet and spices. It’s all stuffed into a sheep’s stomach, which is then simmered for several hours. Delicious, no?

There is more here.  But is the market really there?  I hope not.  Please keep this in mind:

There is apparently a shocking lack of knowledge about haggis. According to a not-very-scientific online survey in 2003, carried out by the haggis manufacturer Hall’s of Broxburn, a third of American visitors to Scotland believed that haggis was an animal. Nearly a quarter thought they could catch one.

1 lloydr July 5, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Haggis is not the real issue, of course — it can easily be prepared with American (or other non-British) sheep to meet any possible market demand.

British sheep organ imports were/are rightly banned in America due to the serious British Mad Cow Disease outbreak and related sheep infections, years ago. There is still strong uncertainty in Britain whether that disease vector and related strains has been fully eliminated. Hold the (British) Haggis, please.

2 Mark Thorson July 5, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Also note that the infectious agent for Mad Cow Disease and scrapie cannot be killed by canning or any conventional form of sterilization. It is a protein, and nothing short of tearing all of the proteins apart will kill it.

3 mkt July 5, 2014 at 7:39 pm

I went to a pub in NY which offered haggis as an appetizer, but we ordered something else. But haggis made in the US would have to omit the lung, if the quote above is accurate. Presumably a Scot would say that that NY haggis therefore would not taste right.

4 Tom July 6, 2014 at 3:05 am

Here’s the current status of BSE in North America, by the way: 4 identified cases in the US, 18 in Canada, since 2003.

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/bse/

5 Robert July 7, 2014 at 12:24 pm

lloydr:

In 1971 BSE was not known about. The first confirmed case was in 1986. I don’t think the original ban was particularly evidenced based. It seems like it was a mixture of paranoia and perhaps a little protectionism. Both the USDA and the FDA are often over zealous (and in other cases the FDA works hand in glove with the drug companies to cover stuff up. And just think about it – if haggis per se was so bad then where are the deleterious health effects attributable to in Europe and much of the rest of the world. When it comes to banning foods the USA is way too much of a nanny state.

And why does Tyler say “But is the market really there? I hope not.” Why would he not want people to eat haggis? If it’s OK to eat beef and chicken why not sheep’s lung? I don’t understand why he would ‘hope not’.

6 J July 5, 2014 at 5:40 pm

I just had haggis for the first time about a week ago. It reminded me very much of meatloaf in taste and texture. I’m not really sure how big of a market there would be for it here.

7 Mark Thorson July 5, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Haggis is not eaten for culinary reasons. It is eaten for cultural idenitfication purposes, like Hákarl.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hákarl

8 Willitts July 6, 2014 at 1:06 am

Poverty diet.

9 Millian July 6, 2014 at 3:41 pm

What makes you feel entitled to make broad-sweep statements based on such narrow opinions of food? Plenty of people eat haggis because they like it.

10 Mark Thorson July 6, 2014 at 5:45 pm

There are also people who say they like Marmite. They’re liars.

11 Dismalist July 5, 2014 at 5:51 pm

I’ve had Haggis once.

12 Tom July 5, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Ridiculous desperation is sure to win back the Scottish Lassie’s heart.

13 Bill July 5, 2014 at 7:22 pm

This is simple trade negotiation.

We accept their haggis, and

They accept

Our GMO.

14 Axel Kassel July 5, 2014 at 7:26 pm

Had haggis and whisky in Oban, Scotland, years ago. Liked it. Went quite mad in consequence, voting Democrat, paying taxes, and suchlike. Want more of the real stuff. Bring on the imports.

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16 Rich July 5, 2014 at 8:16 pm

I’ve also had haggis, and I say this whenever the question of its “foulness” comes up: Put a McD’s Quarter Pounder patty in the fridge until cool. Eat.

Boom. THAT is the flavor of haggis.

17 haggis lover July 6, 2014 at 10:38 am

Tastes nothing like that.

18 wild haggis July 5, 2014 at 10:02 pm

Didn’t Gahan Wilson have a cartoon where someone said “I love to see the wild haggis romp.”? Say, 40 years ago?

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20 Willitts July 6, 2014 at 1:05 am

25% of every population is below average intelligence.

21 Rahul July 6, 2014 at 1:47 am

If the survey had option of the sort “(d) haggis is an animal (e) haggis is an animal and you might be able to catch it on this trip” then they are just begging for the sort of results they are getting.

More than idiot Americans this sort of thing reinforces the dumb survey designer stereotype.

22 rob42 July 6, 2014 at 8:21 am

The thing with that question is, depending on the circumstances asked, I would say yes, Haggis is an animal. It is made from sheep and you could catch a sheep if the farmer didn’t shoot you first.

23 Marian Kechlibar July 6, 2014 at 10:06 am

This isn’t lack of intelligence, but ignorance. You and I could be caught easily in a similar word-trap somewhere in Cameroon. After all, Scotland is a tiny part of the world and its culinary specialities may be utterly unknown in non-WASP America.

24 Wayne Heerdegen July 6, 2014 at 1:54 am

There’s a book waiting for an economist who is interested in food about the economics of poverty food and how frequently you have had to be hungry to figure out how to make something taste good, or at least edible without gagging. Snails and haggis have to be at the top of the list? Perhaps potatoes also shpild be included which are relatively inedible uncooked. Recent food shortages in places like Cambodia also serve as examples, fried spiders anyone?

There’s quite an story of human endurance in this.

25 agm July 7, 2014 at 4:23 am

Barbacoa, lengua, and ojos too – someone had to be the first to say “Hey, they’re just throwing away the head of that steer, lots of good eatin’ there.”

26 Tim Worstall July 6, 2014 at 4:31 am

” a third of American visitors to Scotland believed that haggis was an animal. Nearly a quarter thought they could catch one.”

Catching one would be difficult for as Spike Milligan explained they have legs longer on one side of the body than the other so that they can run around the hills more quickly.

27 Yancey Ward July 6, 2014 at 11:39 am

All I can say is that if this is what the British government is down to to prevent Scottish independence, then they are doomed.

28 Ken July 6, 2014 at 11:40 am

Where does this come from? “But is the market really there? I hope not.” Has TC tried haggis, and found it wanting? Does he oppose the consumption of sheep organ meat? Would haggis makers vie for strip mall restaurant space, thereby driving up the price of authentic Asian food in the DC metro area?

29 Ken July 6, 2014 at 11:42 am

Oh, I also meant to mention that while in Scotland, locals jokingly told stories about haggis animals. One of them tried to convince me that the haggis was a little rodent-line creature that was hunted to extinction in the 19th century. That survey regarding haggis knowledge may reflect that Americans simply didn’t get the joke.

30 DK July 6, 2014 at 9:12 pm

“But is the market really there? I hope not.”

You hope not? Why?

31 am July 7, 2014 at 1:15 am

If Scotland votes for independence and USA continues to refuse haggis imports this will result in a trade war. Retaliation will focus on that key USA export to Scotland: golfers; they can be banned from playing at St. Andrews. This should create sufficient pressure for the haggis ban to be lifted. Although this does raise the question will Scottish courses be part of the British Open round if Scotland votes yes for Independence.

But should USA see sense and allow imports of haggis then the next thing proposed for export will be white pudding followed by black pudding. I see no mention of these culinary delights here but they can often be on the same plate at breakfast with the noble haggis.

Not commonly known, is the feature of the haggis, that the legs on the left side of the body are shorter than the legs on the right side of the body. This is to allow it to run around hills with ease. Or so it is said. In a debate on the mythical nature of the haggis with an Australian, I silenced him by saying why was I expected to believe in a creature that hopped about on two legs and kept its baby in it stomach. He seemed to think that was a fair point but held to the view that the kangaroo was real. Let us not mention the Loch Ness monster either.

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