Will Brexit Bring Haggis Back to America?
British officials are reportedly pushing for America to end a 49-year ban on true Scottish haggis.
Haggis may be the national dish of Scotland, but American fans of true Scottish cuisine will have a hard time finding it in the States: Importing authentic haggis from the U.K. into the U.S. is actually illegal. Back in 1971, the USDA banned the sale of sheep’s lung—a key ingredient that makes up about an eighth of the dish (though lung-free “haggis” does exist in the U.S., if you still feel comfortable calling it that). But with Brexit forcing Americans and Brits to sit down for potentially historically important trade talks, haggis is apparently back on the table… maybe even the American dinner table.
U.K. International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is reportedly playing hardball with sheep’s lung. As the two countries began a third round of negotiations last week, Truss specifically included haggis in a list of trade restrictions she wants lifted for the two sides to reach a deal. British lamb—banned since 1989 during the initial mad cow disease outbreak—was also mentioned.
Allowing the sale of a niche dish that many Americans find off-putting anyway may seem like an inconsequential demand, but James Macsween, managing director for Macsween, Scotland’s largest producer of haggis, crunched the numbers for FoodNavigator. He explained that as many as 25 million Americans have Scottish heritage. “If only 10 percent of those wanted to eat haggis, it would still be another two and a half million consumers,” he told the site. “There’s definitely a pool for exporting food to the United States, and we already do a great job with whisky, smoked salmon, and biscuits. Even our cheese is also starting to gain traction in the States.”
But in the grand scheme of a transatlantic trade agreement, haggis could prove to be figurative scraps as well as literal ones. On Sunday, the Financial Times reported that British officials weren’t optimistic that they’d be able to reach a deal before the U.S. election. While America may "talk a good game on free trade and low tariffs," Truss told the paper, "the reality is that many of our great British products are being kept unfairly out of their market.”
And yet, getting America on board with haggis is far from a new talking point: In fact, it goes all the way to the top. According to the Associated Press, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson even brought up his interest in freeing the Scottish dish during his meeting with Vice President Pence back in September. So who knows? Maybe all hope isn’t lost for haggis yet.