Scottish nightmare food imports still banned in US

The BBC reports on how Americans with Scottish ancestry contrive haggis, a banned delicacy containing mashed sheep's lung, liver and heart, suet, oatmeal, etc., all boiled in a stomach: "There's always a certain level of trepidation because haggis has a reputation as not necessarily the tastiest of morsels. The US isn't known for eating all parts of the animal."


  1. Any food that gives you an excuse to drink whisky is truly the “great chieftain o’ the pudding-race”. Och aye.

    /actually likes haggis.

        1. Making haggis was a way for the Scots to store their meat that the English wouldn’t come and steal.

  2. Haggis has a silly reputation as the nastiest food conceivable, but truthfully it’s very very similar to popular American foods made with ground up offal — goetta and scrapple. Tasty stuff. Great at breakfast or on a jacket potato.

    1.  Absolutely. Americans may object to the idea, or to the spices (which are sometimes fairly strong), or to the texture if they have problems with oats in general… but it’s a perfectly reasonable dish, and as Otterhead points out we eat most of the same ingredients in other combinations whether we admit it to ourselves or not.

      I’ve liked haggis when I’ve had the opportunity to try it, though it did take me a few bites to get used to it the first time. Then again, I like most of the organ meats when they’re properly prepared — I used to think I hated liver, but it turned out that my family simply had no idea how to cook liver. Heart is good stuff. Kidneys are wonderful when done properly. I haven’t been exposed to lungs on their own yet, but my impression is that they’re better used in a dish that flavors them than vice versa… I’d be interested in comments on that.

    2.  Yeah it’s just an animal turned inside out. If I was to name the worst foods it would either be that maggot cheese or those deep fried chicks that the french like to torture.

      1. That Sardinian Casu Marzu is nasty, nasty stuff. Any food that requires one to keep a flattened palm beneath one’s nose to prevent larvae from jumping into it is a food that should never have been eaten. The thing seeps “tears,” for His Noodly Appendage’s sake. Cheese doesn’t just cry for no reason. It’s being eaten alive from inside by parasitical worms, like a thousand little alien babies.

        Ortolan is a threatened species, so despite its aesthetic appeal or lack thereof, anyone who still eats one is really just a selfish asshole. It’s the same with shark fin soup among the Chinese, or Southern Bluefin Tuna in Japan. Eating and fishing a species to extinction is indefensible, and cultural considerations should play no role in enforcement regimes.

        I’d eat the hell out of some haggis. Anyone who enjoys sausage or salami – and really, who doesn’t enjoy some nice sawzeege? – shouldn’t be bothered by a hunk of offal loaf. I agree with American Indians on this one – using the whole animal is a much more intelligent way to consume meat.

        1. AFAIK, ortolan isn’t a threatened species. There are laws against their consumption, though I don’t know what the basis for the laws may be.

          Haggis, otoh, is pretty good to this American. To me, it’s just a kind of sausage. 

          1. Unless something’s changed since this piece ran in 2007, the ortolan in France is threatened and that’s why consumption there – and in here in the US – is illegal. They’re simply eating them toward extinction. In “Medium Raw,” Anthony Bourdain makes a big to-do about his secret ortolan meal at an NYC restaurant run by another famous chef. Speaking as a fan, I found the whole scene to be disgusting – and I’m an enthusiastically-lapsed pescatarian. Outside of bugs, genitalia, dogs, and cats, there’s not much food I think of as inexcusably wrong, but eating a member of a threatened species is just wrong and stupid.

            Oh, and jellyfish. Now that’s just downright ookie.

          2. The article you link to is a little bit misleading, but does contain some truth, in that this is a local poaching problem. Orlotan isn’t a threatened species, described here: as categorized  a species of “least concern”, meaning “As such they do not qualify as threatened, Near Threatened, or (prior to 2001) Conservation Dependent.” What France has is a near impossible to enforce hunting law. 

            As for dog, cat, bugs, genitalia as food, I find nothing objectively wrong, but more like “stuff Westerners usually find icky”. 

          3. In point of fact, the ortolan that migrate north and west to France are indeed threatened in that region of Europe, though not globally, and that’s entirely attributable to French culinary preferences. It’s also why the E.U. issued a directive protecting them and why France, the US, and others have outlawed their consumption. These laws aren’t just inexplicably Francophobic – they’re based on ornithological studies. Most ortolan offered on French menus are trapped in these areas. I’d guess you could go nuts in, say, Morocco, and eat all the deep fried buntings your seared mouth desires, but why would you? Moroccan food is awesome.

            And not to be pedantic, but wikipedia entries should rarely, if ever, be sourced as a basis for a point of view or argument. At the very least, go that extra link or two and examine their reference sections. The article I cited from the Associated Press is pretty accurate, and is buttressed by reporting from NPR, the Telegraph, and others. In fact, these reports are what the wikipedia page you linked to are based on.

            Sure, taste in food is subjective and regional, but still, not everything that can be eaten should be eaten. I’ve read – and agree with, on an intellectual level – arguments for a future insect-heavy diet as a source of abundant protein on a planet going to 10 billion+, but I’ll leave the ants, beetles, and such to southern Mexicans, some Asian cultures, and Baloo from The Jungle Book, little britches.

            I’d only add that the cultural relativism that excuses the behavior of certain groups of people is an outdated notion that leads to things like exceptions for native tribes to continue unsustainable whaling traditions, or, say, the Taliban. The rules that govern human behavior have changed for almost all societies all over the world since the Chinese first got down with a plate of Fido. Slavery and uxoricide (killing one’s wife – I had to look that up. Who knew?) are generally no longer tolerated, and those people who still engage in that behavior are universally shunned or outlawed (I’m looking at you, northern Pakistan). Sure, it’s basically a sentimental impulse to eschew dog and cat consumption, but it’s also one based on a time-honored human norm of domestic cohabitation with dogs and cats. There’s a reason most cultures revert to these food sources only in times of famine.

            But hey, what harm can a little African bush meat do, right? It’s only disgusting from my myopic, xenophobic American point of view.

      1. Most hot dogs are just made from meat trimmings — the bits left over from butchering for steaks and various cuts. They don’t usually have any offal (or lips, or anuses) in them despite the old rumors :)

        1. My favourite Frankenstein meat food ingredient is “hydrologically reclaimed facial tissue”. Reclaimed from what, for cripes sake?

          1. Holy crap, that’s amazing. That sounds like something Rob Bottin would use to make monster makeup. What was that found on?

          2. It was in a newspaper piece years ago about the contents of a big chain burger company’s patties. I think it referred to bits of meat blasted off cow skulls with a water jet.

          3.  There are quite a few tasty facial muscles on cows and pigs, but they can be time/labor intensive to remove. So Butchers use high pressure water guns to peel the meat off the bone once the skin has been hand-trimmed off.

            AND NOW YOU KNOW.

          4. I find the name given to paper handkerchiefs quite unsettling; a box of facial tissues… sounds like something from the Ted Bundy domestic collection.

          5. My favourite Frankenstein meat food ingredient is “hydrologically reclaimed facial tissue”. Reclaimed from what, for cripes sake?

            Joan Rivers.

    3. It just so happens, I re-invented scrapple gravy this weekend (we had scrapple in the freezer and I’d made a mess of biscuits the night before, and we were out of loose sausage).  The kids were incensed that I’d never made it before – they thought I’d been holding out on this kind of wonderful from them all their lives.

      If Americans want to get weirded out over a product, they should consider hot dogs – lips and butt-holes stuffed back into the poop tube with nitrates and coal tar dyes.

      1. Scrapple (made with everything from bits of heart, liver, and skin to brains) is indeed terrific.

        The whole “hotdogs are lips and anuses” trope is old and stale and very untrue these days, though.

    4. I’m not Scottish, and in fact harbour any number of ill conceived grudges against the kilt wearing thieves from beyond the wall; but I really must say, Haggis is fuckin’ lovely! Its right up there with Black Pudding (the food of the Blood Gods), around 8.9 on the Nosh Scale.

      Unlike Burgers, Haggis rarely contains traces of horse.

        1. If it was good enough a boarder for the Romans, its good enough for me. Anyway Alex Salmond will probably demand it be reinstated as the new boarder when he becomes Rex Scotorum in 2014.

          Still, you are correct, I did assume that England had maintained its ancient boarder with the Northern Neighbour. ;D

          1. when he becomes Rex Scotorum

            Her Majesty is closer to the Scottish line than to the English. I’m going to write her a letter and suggest that she close up the London franchise and move into Holyroodhouse full time.

      1. I am Scottish by ancestry, and I’m all for tartan indoctrination camps for the wee bairns and giving a sgian-dubh for a baby shower gift, but I’m not getting near a haggis. The one time that I barely dodged a haggis bullet, I chose lamb’s brains in peach sauce to avoid the bag of gut-flavored porridge.

    1. Scots actually do eat that, and it’s really pretty nice. It’s basically like black pudding – there’s lots of spices in there, so it doesn’t taste nearly as disgusting as the composition would make it sound. It tastes like spiced sausage, or stuffing, but with more black pepper. Vegetarian haggis also exists, and it tastes almost exactly the same as the non-vegetarian version, so that’s an idea if you want to have a taste but aren’t too appealed by the version that has animal parts in it.
      You want some really horrifying and disgusting Scottish food? Battered and deep-fried Mars bars. Those are terrible. (And were invented for the sole purpose of trolling tourists.)

      1. Black pudding/sausage is far less nasty than some people might think.  I’ve found it to taste sort of bland and the texture isn’t any different than a crumbly sausage.

        The Scots will fry anything I hear.

        1. I was once asked by a work colleague if Black Pudding was Halal. He wouldn’t believe me when I told him what the ingredients were.

  3. Haggis is really just another kind of sausage, just in a different form factor. How bad can it be? Does it top a hot head cheese sandwich as far as ickyness?

    1. I’ve never heard of tatties and neeps, but google to the rescue answered the question. More importantly, there’s a scottish wikipedia which is just hella fun to read:
      A neep or tumshie is the ruit crap brassica rapa var. rapa that’s aft growen in maumie climates athort the warld for its white, bulbous tapruit. Smaw, neshy kynds is growen for human consumption, while lairger kynds is growen as feed for stock. Neeps is weel-likit in Europe, parteecular in caulder airts, sith they growe weel in cauld climates an can be keepit for mony months efter the hairst.

      I mean, this isn’t a joke, right?

  4. My mom makes haggis once or twice a year – it’s not bad. But I eat corned beef hash, scrapple, and sausage without problems.

    It can, however, be very, very bad if prepared wrong…

  5. Had some haggis at a Burns night party once.  I think the host had ordered it from Scotland.

    It was ok.  Basically like a not-very-good sausage.  Better than black pudding.

  6. My wife and I have haggis around once a month if not more. Its cheap and delicious a £2 haggis is plenty for both of us (with mashed spud and some other veggies)

    We often have the English version of faggots (more or less the same ingredient but less heavily spiced and wrapped up in caul fat and either roasted with gravy or deep fried and served with chips) Again they are cheap, nutritious and delicious.

    The look on my Canadian brother in laws face when I took him to a British fish and chip shop and ordered faggots and chips plus a deep fried mars bar was priceless. Deep fried mars bars may have started off as a joke but they are actually delicious. The trick is to get them to melt just enough and eat them when they still hot.

    The best reaction I got from my brother in law was when we went out for a meal and I ordered whitebait for a starter as he hates eating fish of all kinds so the sight of me eating tiny fried fish the size of my finger by just wolfing them down whole….

  7. Growing up, I had Scots grandparents, and Swedish ones, with traditional dishes from both at the holidays. I would gladly eat a plate full of haggis before I would touch another bite of lutfisk.

    1. What?  No surstromming?  I love stinky food, but I couldn’t get that one past my nose.  My Swedish aunt would not let her husband bring that one into the house; it stunk the place up.  If you wanted some, you had to go to the pumphouse. 

      Ugh, it was nasty.

      1. Surstromming was banned by gramma, bless her. I really miss her limpa bread.

        But, I don’t know, I still think lutfisk is worse, if only for that edge of soap flavour it has over the nasty fish notes. Bleurgh is right.

        1. I spoke with a Swede who told me that lutefisk isn’t even eaten in Sweden anymore.  He considered it a food that poor peasants of the last century ate because they had no better options.   They now consider it an American food.

          1. HA! I knew it! I would always point out that since we were in a nice, American home with grocery stores nearby, and not snowed in somewhere or on a long sea voyage, there was no reason to eat that vile stuff.

    2. Agreed! As someone who is also partly of Nordic heritage, I’ve eaten my share of lutefisk. Salty, slimy lutefisk with white sauce. Bleurgh. Nowhere near as unappetizing as surstromming, though!

      Haggis is yummy.

    3. Neither my daughter nor my husband eat lutfisk… which means more for me!!!!!!

      I have never had haggis, but I would love to try. It really sounds good to me! (Although I have a feeling it would be another “Well, it’s more for me then!” dish.)

    1. Ooh, Brown Sauce… drool… not that traitorous HP Sauce, but some proper supermarket own brand Brown Sauce…

      1. I was once in a small chip shop in Edinburgh and asked the man behind the counter, “what, exactly, is in brown sauce?”

        “You know… um… brown,” was the only answer he could give.

        1. I can’t eat things without knowing what they are. I won’t get within ten feet of anything calling itself gravy.

  8. I’ve never been lucky enough to try haggis, not even when I was in Scotland. I don’t remember why not, but I do know that any place that produces Scotch eggs knows a thing or two about good food. 

    1. There is a fantastic product called “A Black Watch Scotch Egg”. This is like a normal Scotch Egg, but with cooked Black Pudding in place of the minced meat.

  9. yep, also making a haggis for Burns night.  the way my better half makes it is similar to Thanksgiving stuffing, and is approachable by most (as long as they don’t hear the name). now I need to go off and memorize a few poems :)

  10. My children actually beg for haggis.

    Of course, we’re vegetarian, so the version we eat is quite tasty without any of the offal stuff.  Basically, veggie hash.  Yum.

    1. That makes as much sense as calling a slab of tofu vegetarian filet mignon. Or is the whole point that vegetarian haggis resembles in no way haggis?

      1. Having had both, vegetarian haggis (which is basically spiced oats, beans, nuts, and bits of veggies) is as much haggis as meaty haggis is, and to be honest — it’s a bit better. They’re both so strongly spiced that the big difference is that the meaty one’s a lot fattier.

      2. ????

        False equivalency.  It’s more like calling vegetarian chili a tasty form of chili despite the lack of ground meat.

        What people who’ve never eaten haggis might not realize is that the flavor is mostly due to spices and the composition is hash.  Whether or not there are chopped up bits of lungs in or not makes it more or less “authentic” but doesn’t actually make that much difference in terms of taste or consistency.

        I’ve been at many a Burns Night in Britain with both versions served side by side, and the most apparent difference is that the veggie haggis is lighter in color (colour, as long as we’re on this thread).

        1. Vegetarian chili is legitimate chili.  The only required ingredient is chili peppers, and after that I’d say onions, garlic, cumin, and maybe oregano.  Whether there’s meat or beans or neither is style, not definition (as opposed to the “vegetarian chili con carne” that euansmith mentioned, which is an oxymoron.)

          So where can you find a “veggie haggis” in the US?  It’s not something I’ve seen in the British food sections of the grocery (which have Marmite and various marmalades and such.)  I’d expect it to be as far off-base as Tofurkey is.

          1. We’ve only had it in Britain (England and Scotland).  But it’s time to find a source on our side of “the pond”….so if I do, I’ll let you know.

            Edited to add: what I’ve discovered so far is that Macsween is supposedly the best choice, but AFAIK isn’t easily available in the States (international freight charges are not worth it). There’s also a brand-in-a-can available at Amazon: Stahly’s. Caledonia Kitchen supposedly has a canned version as well, but that doesn’t seem to be available anywhere, not even at their own website.

            The closest thing to what we’ve had in Britain and yet available in the US seems to be: Scottish Gourmet Veggie Haggis In a Skin.

  11. Except that haggis isn’t banned in the US.  The only thing that’s banned is the sale of lungs, so you can either have lung-free haggis, or buy your lungs on the downlow from the farmer – which seems like the authentic way anyway.

  12. I do believe we need a Toast to the Lassies, and then of course a Reply to the Toast to the Lassies.

    I’ll just be sitting here drinking my single malt (with a wee drop) in anticipation.

  13. What is this about haggis being banned?  I live in sheep country where the descendants of Scots settlers whip up batches regularly.  Our big Bobbie Burns night is coming up Saturday and there will be haggis!

  14. “As it stands, however, lungs are “considered an inedible item” in the US, says a spokesman for the Food Safety and Inspection Service.”

    Here in the US we don’t put up with all this weird, potentially dangerous food.  We prefer our inedible food to come out of massive manufacturing plants.

  15. Or, go the Hipster Haggis route : kosher hot dogs marinated in an Islay single-malt scotch and the traditional spices. (Long story made short: observant Jewish friend also a Burns enthusiast, and this is the end result of the quest for kosher haggis. Gravlax is also ver’ nice when prepared with an Islay scotch.)

  16. I’ve been asked to produce a Kosher Haggis. Not a vegetarian one, a kosher sheep one. For a shabbat Burns night (!). Welcome to the (sheep fat) melting pot.

    Yet I have to make my gefilte fish outdoors, due to the stink.

    And many scotch whiskeys aren’t even kosher due to used brandy barrel aging. Must take my approved list and plaid yamulka to the dinner.

  17. Haggis made IN the US isn’t illegal btw… Only Haggis imported from the UK is illegal – because it may contain sheep lung, which is on a no-no list somewhere.

    1. It’s the possibility of scrapie, which is essentially the same as Creutzfeld-Jakob (aka mad cow aka prion neuropathy aka your brain becomes a sponge and when you die you’re not even allowed to be cremated, your remains are locked in a box for eternity).

  18. How does Stinky Tofu rate compared to western “Gross food”?

    I was exposed to the dish and managed to eat two whole pieces of it while only gagging a bit for 10 minutes or so.

    It smelled horrible, but with all the other chinese food on the table, it was only “just horrible”. (the other foods were very aromatic and hid the stinky tofu smell)

    I put the first piece in my mouth and was immediately overwhelmed by the feeling that a horse with diarrhea had just unloaded right in my mouth (having grown up on a farm, I know what a horse with diarrhea smells like)

    After eating the first piece, the waitress came by and said “Oh, you must eat with this” and handed us some cabbage looking stuff that was pickled.

    Adding the pickled stuff to it definitely changed the taste/flavor, it now tasted like pickled horse diarrhea in my mouth.  

    I have great respect for the people of Taiwan who are strong enough to eat this stuff on a regular basis.

    1. That stuff smells like it’s my roommate’s turn do the dishes.  It tastes worse than it smells.  The worst part is that the taste doesn’t go away for a long time, making it’s ingestion a deep commitment to revulsion.  Sort of like Pink Flamingos for the palette.

  19. But for many expat Scots and Scots-Americans, the notion of Burns Supper without haggis is as unthinkable as Thanksgiving without turkey.

    Scots-Americans accounting for like 25 million Americans. I would love to see these folks polled to see if they:

    A) Know who Burns is.
    B) Know what haggis is.

    A) Mostly no.
    B) Something joked about on The Simpsons in association with Groundskeeper Willy.

    1. There is a whole subculture of Scots-Americans who really get into the whole thing — Burns Night, wearing kilts, playing bagpipes, etc. It’s not really any different from the German-Americans who really get into Oktoberfest. 

      1. Absolutely, but I think it’s really a tiny sliver of Scots-Americans, which are something like 25 million Americans.

  20. “The US isn’t known for eating all parts of the animal.” I have one word for that statement “scrapple”

    Scrapple is typically made of hog offal, such as the head, heart, liver, and other trimmings, which are boiled with any bones attached (often the entire head), to make a broth. Once cooked, bones and fat are discarded, the meat is reserved, and (dry) cornmeal is boiled in the broth to make a mush. The meat, finely minced, is returned to the pot and seasonings, typically sage, thyme, savory, black pepper, and others are added.[2][3] The mush is formed into loaves and allowed to cool thoroughly until set. The proportions and seasoning are very much a matter of the region and the cook’s taste.[4]

  21. Why is it that the US regulates lung as inedible?  It doesn’t have odd hormonal content, etc.  Same for the beef tripe restrictions (one of the four stomachs isn’t food either).

    I am atypical for an American, and like offal. (especially kidney and sweetbreads [which aren’t the organ you think] with beef liver about the only exception).  I have eaten and enjoyed what I assume was an authentic haggis (it was during a visit to the Lake district, in a pub that claimed to have made it on-premises).

    I know that hot dogs do include some of the organ meats, I don’t know about the more “extreme” cuts, they may be reserved for the dog and cat food cans.

    I have heard a likely apocryphal story that pork rectum is sold as squid.

  22. You have reminded me that my dear scottish wife will be insisting on haggis tomorrow, with nips and ties of course….

    Ah what a man will do for love.

    The antidote will be on saturday when we will dine royally on haddock curry and basmati rice.

  23. I actually took a trip to scotland recently and the first thing I tried was haggis with a fine whiskey. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. I was also surprised by Loch Ness, so not what I was expecting.

    1. How could you be surprised by Loch Ness? It’s a loch, albeit a really, really big one.What were you expecting? (Genuine non-snarky question.) 

        1. I went to Scotland in 1985ish.  I was surprised by how beautiful Edinburgh is.  We didn’t have the internet back then, so I had no idea what it looked like.  It’s a great European capital city built on a site with spectacular topography and filled with incredible architecture.

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