Haggis makers cook up recipe to beat US ban

Sandy Crombie with his shop's haggis. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Sandy Crombie with his shop's haggis. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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IT is a national dish beloved by ex-pats and the Scottish ­diaspora, but for aficionados in the United States, haggis has long been off the menu.

Now, hopes are high that a four-decade ban on the delicacy will finally be overcome.

Tens of millions of Americans want to enjoy Scotland’s national dish”

RICHARD LOCHHEAD

Manufacturers of the traditional dish will this week join a Scottish Government delegation in an attempt to convince US authorities to reconsider the long-standing veto.

If successful, it could open up a lucrative new multi-million-pound market, with as many as 9.2 million Americans claiming Scottish ancestry.

The ban, which has been in place since 1971, is specifically against the importing of sheep lungs, a traditional ingredient in haggis, but something which is not regarded as fit for human consumption in the US.

In an attempt to get around the ban, makers of the dish are considering ways to tweak the recipe in order to bring their goods to North America, according to Richard Lochhead, Holyrood’s rural affairs secretary.

Earlier this year, Conservative peer Lord McColl of Dulwich urged the UK government to “redouble” its efforts to lift the ban on the “wholesome food”, which, he said, “satisfies hunger very much more than the junk food the Americans consume”.

Mr Lochhead said he was optimistic of finding a way to expand the average American palate.

“Tens of millions of Americans want to enjoy Scotland’s national dish,” he said.

“Now it may be that we’d have to tweak the recipe for haggis to get into the US market, because some of the ingredients – such as sheep lungs – have been banned since 1971.

“But I think our own producers here in Scotland are up for tweaking the recipe so that US customers can still get as close as possible to the real thing.

“And if we managed to get into that market, that would create jobs back here in Scotland and millions of pounds for the Scottish economy.”

Mr Lochhead will be accompanied on the trip by James Macsween, the director of Loanhead-based Macsween of Edinburgh, one of the country’s best-known haggis makers.

However, other manufacturers said that although the prospect of a new market was good news, it remained unclear how they would maintain the “rich flavour” the lungs give the dish.

Sandy Crombie, the owner of Crombies of Edinburgh, a butcher shop based on Broughton Street, said the lungs were crucial to any self-respecting haggis recipe.

He said: “It’s the lungs that make haggis, it’s a special part of the recipe and there’s no reason at all for not using them. It’s what gives the dish its distinctive flavour.”