10 facts you didn't know about Scottish food & drink

Here are ten facts you (probably) didn't know about Scottish produce.

Published 7th Mar 2015
Updated 9 th Aug 2023

Scottish produce is a source of pride within the country for good reason - despite infamous North American bans and the occasional turned up nose from abroad.

Food and drink gives the nation many reasons to hold their head high - from gaining luxury status, to being the mothers of invention, to creating foods that double up as sporting apparatus.

Here are ten facts you may not know about Scottish produce.

1. Haggis is banned in the USA

Despite sounding so ridiculous that you think it would be a Brass Eye sketch, haggis has indeed been banned in the USA since 1971 by US Department of Agriculture due to the minor detail of key ingredient of Sheep's lung being considered an 'inedible item' by law. Your loss, America.

2. Haggis hurling record

Not only making a key component to a Burn's supper meal, the haggis is also a source of sporting greatness for the country.

The competition of 'haggis hurling' is a feat of strength undiluted by excessive rules, with the main task being to launch your sheep's lung as far as possible.

The current Guinness world record was set when 19-year-old Lorne Coltart threw a 1.5lb haggis over 217 feet at the 2011 Milngavie Highland Games.

3. Rival bridies

The Forfar bridie is a pie steeped in Scottish tradition, but the origin of the name 'bridie' is the source of dispute between local producers. Saddler's Bakery claims that the pie was named after Maggie Bridie, who distributed the pies to local farmer's markets and thus becoming 'bridie's pies'.

However, another theory states that the pie was named due to being a culinary treat saved for special occasions such as weddings (hence bridies), which explains the horse-shoe shape for good luck.

4. Old money Highland Coo

The famous shaggy-haired cattle with their origins in the Scottish highlands are the oldest registered breed of cow in the world, with first written records of the animal dating back to 1884.

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The Scottish beef industry is a huge-earner for the country also, in 2015 it was recorded worth more than £675 million a year to the economy.

5. French seal of approval for Scottish Salmon

Despite an often one-sided relationship between France and Britain when it comes to culinary cross-overs, Scottish-farmed salmon has held the Label Rouge, the French government's highest quality food award, for over 22 years.

Salmon sourced in this country was the first non-French produce to receive such an accolade.

6. Slow-take on whisky

Scotch Whisky may now be a local produce worth billions to the UK Economy, but the spirit itself was thought to have originally been created in China - before first being distilled by monks in Ireland and not making its way across the Irish sea until another 100 years later.

This makes Scotland's whisky industry a mere bright eyed and bushy tailed start-up, only dating back to the 1400s.

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7. Mad for mackerel

Seafood is big news in Japan and a huge component of the national diet.

Scotland's mackerel is a multi-million pound export to the country, with Scottish food and drink accounting for nearly a quarter of all exports to the land of the rising sun.

8. Dundee Marmalade legend

Dundee's connection to Paddington Bear's favourite preserve is well documented, but the story behind the original marmalade invention is still uncertain.

Legend has it that after a Spanish vessel harboring oranges from Sevilla was stranded in the city port, grocer James Kellier bought a large quantity of the citrus fruit on the cheap.

Due to their bitterness, he was unable to sell them and was instead persuaded by his wife to turn them into a preserve.

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The orange preserve proved popular and a regular order of Sevilla oranges were ordered from then on.

9. Mars says 'non', Paris says 'oui'

Despite becoming the stuff of legend, the deep-fried Mars Bar is yet to be officially endorsed by the Mars company.

The company released an official statement saying "deep-frying one of our products would go against our commitment to promoting healthy, active lifestyles" when reports of the chippie treat began to circulate.

Despite a knock-back from the makers, Scottish chef Ross Kendal took the delicacy to the home of haute cuisine when he featured it on the menu of Paris restaurant Le Chipper. Vincent Noce, of French daily newspaper Libération, described the delicacy as 'not bad at all'.

10. Tikka Masala territory

A hotly-contested issue is whether Scotland was actually birthplace to the nation's favourite Indian dish. According to the son of Ali Ahmed Aslam, the proprietor of Glasgow's Shish Mahal restaurant, the tikka masala was initially created on their premises, when a bus driver sent a chicken curry back complaining that it was too dry.

Aslam supposedly was eating a tomato soup at the time and so suggested using the soup and some spices - which proved to be a big hit. The bus driver's concoction eventually became a menu mainstay.

MP Mohammad Sarwar put forward a motion in the House of Commons in 2009, that Glasgow should be given EU protected geographical status for the tikka masala. This motion was not taken any further however and Scotland is still in search of justice.

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