The Offal Truth: The U.S. Lifts Its Ban on Haggis Importation After 21 Years

Robert Burns called it “great chieftan o’ the puddin-race” but the United States government just called it contraband for decades. Now, first being banned from importation, the Scots have been given a green light to send waves of haggis to our shores. After 21 years, one of the last great prohibitions has fallen and now Americans will be able to experience the stomach curling, soul-crushing dish known simply as “the Haggis.”

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The ban was put into place during the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis of the 1980s-90s when U.S. health officials objected to main ingredient of haggis: minced sheep offal. That’s right, offal is the main ingredient.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hudies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

Scots were forced to either make their own in the States or, in a Midnight Express moment, tape haggis to their bodies to try to smuggle the dish on flights from Edinburgh.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reeking, rich!

“Reeking” is about as accurate as Burns could be. I have tried Haggis not once but twice. The first experience in my childhood almost landed me into years of therapy.

Then horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit!’ hums.

There are six million Americans of Scottish descent in the United States and I had thought that most of them had fled Scotland to get away from Haggis.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

Yes, Robert, it is true that many of us do sneer and scorn “on sic a dinner.” On the other hand, it is not a good sign when a dish is supposed to be eaten with a copious amount of whiskey.

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As fecl;ess as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Tho’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.

Unable to get good sheep offal, Americans use beef which is viewed as nothing short of an abomination by Haggis-heads. Margaret Frost, of the Scottish American Society in Ohio noted, “We have had to put up with the US version, which is made from beef and is bloody awful.” It seems that haggis without sheep offal is awful despite the fact that most sensible people throw offal out and focus on the edible parts of the animal.

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whistle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned
Like taps o’ thrissle.

Offal, shown left, are the entrails and internal organs of the animal.

Ye pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware,
That jaups in luggies;
But if ye wish her gratfu’ prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

The ban has led to an organized campaign by haggis-deprived Scots, including by Alex Salmond, the Scottish National party leader, targeting the finicky eaters at the Department of Agriculture.

air full your honest, jolly face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Stomach, tripe, or intestines:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

They pointed out that the World Organisation for Animal Health has determined that sheep lungs no longer carry a risk of contamination by scrapie, a close variant of mad cow disease. However, what they do not point out is the 100% of testing of cans of haggis found the presence of haggis.

The groaning trencher there you fill,
Your buttocks like a distant hill,
Your pin would help to mend a mill
In time of need,
While through your pores the dews distill
Like amber bead.

Who beyond a half-cocked Scotsmen refers to a haggis as “your buttocks like a distant hill?”

His knife see rustic Labour wipe,
And cut you up with ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like any ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm steaming, rich!

What is most disturbing is that the sales of haggis are on the rise around the world — the ultimate argument against Darwinistic evolution of the species.

Then spoon for spoon, the stretch and strive:
Devil take the hindmost, on they drive,
Till all their well swollen bellies by-and-by
Are bent like drums;
Then old Master of the house, most like to burst,
‘The grace!’ hums.

I seem to recall more moaning than humming.

Is there that over his French ragout,
Or olio that would sicken a sow,
Or fricassee would make her throw-up
With perfect disgust,
Looks down with sneering, scornful view
On such a dinner?

Actually, most of us thought those were the ingredients of haggis.

oor devil! see him over his trash,
As feeble as a withered rush,
His thin legs a good whip-lash,
His fist a nut;
Through bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.

Haggis sales are up by 19% on 2008. Surprisingly, suicides rose by the same percentage that year.

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his ample fist a blade,
He will make it whistle;
And legs, and arms, and heads will crop
Like tops of thistle.

Richard Lochhead, the Scottish environment secretary, insists “We believe that reversing the ban would deliver a vote of confidence in Scottish producers, and allow American consumers to sample our world-renowned national dish.” And never venture near that island again, no doubt. Why not emphasize soccer or those manly skirts. Why the sheep offal?

You powers, who make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland want no watery ware,
That splashes in small wooden dishes;
But is you wish her grateful prayer,
Give her a Haggis!

Yes, do give her a haggis . . . and easy access to a sink. Nevertheless, the offal truth is that haggis probably will not kill you, just leave you writhing on the floor. You can now even get haggis in a can.

Well, my Scottish friends, happy offal independence day.

Truth be known, however, I am a big fan of Bad Haggis:

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27 thoughts on “The Offal Truth: The U.S. Lifts Its Ban on Haggis Importation After 21 Years”

  1. Byron–

    “pronounced offal awful I will assume.”

    You betcha!

    The thought of ever having to eat haggis puts my taste buds into epicurean shock.

  2. Elaine:

    “I hear there’s a new version of haggis made with chickpeas instead of oatmeal that is formed into balls, deep fried, and served with pita bread. It’s called offalafel.”

    that was funny.

  3. I’m with you duh on this one, bdaman and Ajockincajuinland. But really how can you tell the difference?

  4. Another example of what kinds of things people in the U.K. consider edible, like head cheese and souse.

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