What is Haggis made of? Is it from Scotland? Why is it banned in the US? Recipe & history of Burns Night dish

Haggis is enjoyed by many Scots as they celebrate the life of famous Scottish poet Robert Burns on Burns Night, but what is Haggis made of and why is it banned in the US?

Despite being a famous Scottish dish considered ‘awfie’ delicious by many, the history of haggis is somewhat mysterious. It was popularised by Scottish poet Robert Burns in the 18th century when he referred to it as that ‘great chieftain o' the puddin-race’ and to this day the dish is still enjoyed by Scots on January 25 for Burns Night.

However, its legacy as a Scottish phenomena much like Irn Bru or whisky may not be accurate as the dish has a complicated history.

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What is Haggis made of?

Haggis served with 'neeps and tatties' (turnips and potatoes) - a very traditional Scottish recipe.

Haggis (known as ‘tagais’ in Scottish Gaelic) is a dish made from the liver, stomach or heart of Sheep or Cows. Whatever meat is used is usually mixed with onion, oatmeal and suet before being boiled in the animal’s stomach.

Traditionally, the meat is then served with a turnip and potato mash that is famously known in Scotland as ‘neeps and tatties’.

Why is Haggis banned in the USA?

If you’re in the US then you won’t be able to buy a traditional haggis as it has been banned in the country since the 1970s. It became illegal to import haggis from Scotland in 1971 as there was a sanction on food containing Sheep lungs which constitutes a large portion of the traditional Haggis recipe.

An old joke in Scotland was telling American tourists who asked 'What is a haggis?' That it's "a small four-legged creature from the Highlands!" Some reported that this was actually taken seriously, however, and not humorously as intended.

According to a report by iNews it’s known that Americans “can’t even make their own haggis as US-produced foods containing sheep lungs are also prohibited.” Joelle Hayden who works for the US Department of Agriculture, the Food Safety and Inspection Service, confirmed that the ban exists as they “determine sheep lungs to be inedible and, therefore, cannot be utilised for human consumption.”

Where does Haggis come from?

Despite being considered the quintessential Scottish dish, there are no clear origins for Haggis as many similar recipes appear across world cultures with some historical evidence pointing to it not originating from Scotland at all. Ancient Romans, for example, made haggis-type dishes that also stuffed offal inside animals’ stomachs.

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Within the context of Scotland, however, Historic UK reports that the dish may originate from when old Scottish cattle drovers would leave the Highlands to journey to the cattle market in Edinburgh with Haggis being the meal that sustained them on that journey.

Others point to other Scottish ancestors like Vikings who may have imported Haggis to Scotland following their invasion in the late 8th century.

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