The Great Scottish Haggis Hoax

I never really paid too much attention to the issue of importing Haggis to the United States until the issue came to my attention via the marketplace spot I mentioned in my last post: Marketplace gets it wrong about Haggis. First off, one can find haggis in the States just by googling “haggis US”. That will start you with Caledonian Kitchen and McKeans, both manufacture haggis in the States. That is the way they avoid the importation issue dealing with the use of sheep’s lungs, which is the hanging point on importation.

I know there are other haggis manufacturers and sources besides Caledonian Kitchen and McKeans in the US, which any decent journalist should have found and asked for comment.

According to Ron Thurston of McKean North America in regard to the importation ban:

We did the next best thing and exported those ingredients we can (the non meat ingredients) to our licensed manufacturer the WA Bean Company, and they use our recipe and US lamb to make our authentic Scottish haggis. Our company is Glasgow based and maintains the web site there but our haggis is made in Maine

In a follow up e-mail, Mr. Thurston said:

David Bean from our US manufacturer in Bangor Maine and I and our wives were guests at the annual Food Trade show in Glasgow a few years ago and were introduced to the audience – In attendance were representatives of McSween and it was reported to me later that they were surprised and perhaps peeved that another Scottish company had beat them into the US market – Not sure if there is a connection but every year during Burns season they always manage to get a story in the US media

Actually, Jim Walters of Caledonian Kitchen was the most helpful since he has been making haggis in the US since 1996 and learned from the Mr. MacSween. According to Mr. Walters, the market for haggis in the US may not be as green as the Scottish haggis manufacturers believe. Additionally, they are facing competition from the “local” businesses I’ve mentioned (“local” since McKean North America is based in Glasgow).

The question is how much of a market is there really for Scottish haggis in the US when one can buy it locally made? Mr. Walters is of the opinion that the Scottish haggis manufacturers may be more optimisitic about their potential market share.

Additionally, as I pointed out if the matter is free trade, then the trade works both ways with Mr. Walters being able to sell his haggis in Scotland! Then the story might change to Scottish haggis manufacturers not wanting foreign competition!

The real issue is that controversy sells and if it appears that Scottish haggis manufacturers are “barred” from a market by US health regulations regarding lung meat, that is far more interesting than pointing out that these people are just whinging. Scottish haggis is available whether made by a purely US firm (Caledonian Kitchen), or one which is based in Scotland (McKeans). And those two firms are just two of many (I know anecdotally of two more: Camerons and Stewart’s of Kearny, NJ).

You would like to believe that the media, especially US public media with its “reputation for accuracy” would have done better research on this topic and contacted at least Caledonian Kitchen and McKeans. But, no, they only took the “we can’t sell our haggis in the States” side of the story.

Ach weel, just have a laugh.

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