Horray for SPAM! (the meat)

SPAMToday is a big day for birthdays in the food business. On May 16th, 1832, Philip Danforth Armour, the founder of Armour Foods was born. This also marks the birthday of every ones childhood favorite, Spaghetti-O’s. But the one birthday that stands out today is the birth of the food that everyone loves to hate, SPAM. On May 16, 1891, the canned bliss was born. I remember my first SPAM experience, and I remember saying to myself “what a great idea”. Who would have ever thought to chop up a ham into little pieces and then glue them all back together and put them in a can. Well, let’s look at that for a moment.

George A. Hormel created SPAM the same year that he founded his meat processing empire. The original name for SPAM was Hormel Spiced Ham. Up to this point it was very difficult to manufacture canned meat. Because of the breakdown of cell walls, canned meats would tend to come out dry  because the water would separate from the meat. This would leave the meat floating in a can full of water. Hormel realized that if he packed meat in geletin that it would keep its moisture and that the water would not separate. Hormel Spiced Ham did very well for a number of years, however in the 1930’s the gelatin encased meat started to lose market share. Hormel decided that Spiced Ham needed a facelift.

In 1937 Hormel decided on the name SPAM. The name SPAM was chosen as part of a contest. There is some debate as to why the name SPAM was chosen, but the most popular theories are based on the classic name Spiced Ham or possibly because the canned pork product is made of shoulder pork and ham. Well that and some salt for flavoring and preservation and geletin to suspend the product and to keep the meat moist. Contrary to popular belief, SPAM is made of only prime cuts of shoulder meat and ham and contains only wholesome meat. Well that and some salt for flavoring and preservation and geletin to suspend the product and to keep the meat moist. Nothing from the parts of a pig that a pig doesn’t want to admit a pig has. 

SPAM was 52 years old before the name was first used to describe unwanted email. Sean Radford, Hormel’s archives manager and SPAM museum curator says that this wasn’t easy for the company to handle.

“We have a product we really believe in, a product with a long and interesting history, and that product’s name was co-opted for something that a lot of people really hate — spam e-mails. So, sure, there was a lot of debate about how the whole situation should be handled,” said Radford.

“But Hormel decided pretty quickly that it was best to be dignified and gracious about the entire issue,” he said. “The company decided that instead of turning the lawyers loose we’d just assume that people can tell the difference between good canned meat and bad e-mail and that people wouldn’t confuse the two. All Hormel asks is that people not use uppercase letters when referring to spam e-mail. Spam — all uppercase letters — is our product.”

Regardless of your opinion of SPAM (the canned meat), there are millions of people who eat the product. Amazingly, over 150 million cans sold worldwide per year. And whether you like it or not, Hormel has a pretty good sense of humor about it’s product, as is evident by their web site. A joke to some and a delicacy to others, SPAM is a stapel in many households. Is it in yours?

Hormel’s Official SPAM Website – SPAM.com

SPAM Museum– RoadSideAmerica.com

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3 responses to “Horray for SPAM! (the meat)

  1. Pingback: Happy Spamiversary | Vegan.com

  2. I live in Japan and though Japanese don’t eat much spam, they have cute Spam TV commercials
    http://www.japansugoi.com/wordpress/japanese-spam-tv-commercial/

  3. There is the tiniest, faintest “edge” to this spam that I presume is the bacon, although you could have fooled me — it seemed like a denser type version of the regular spam. It’s okay as spam goes and I prefer this to the regular spam, the few times I’m in the mood for it — but more bacon would be preferable — i don’t really think they have a right to call it that name, to tell you the truth.

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