SPAM – Mystery Meat?

SPAM – Mystery Meat?

The title of this post reads “SPAM – Mystery Meat?” but if you were thinking this post would deal with revealing the mystery meat, delving into elusive myths, urban legends, and scientific analysis, you’re in error. Spam, along with Twinkies, and maybe plastic cheese (the subject of a recent post), is one of the more ridiculed foods, but the ingredients are known. There is no mystery. The only mystery about Spam is its name, but more about that later.

SPAM by Delilah

Spam is made with pork shoulder, ham, water, salt, sugar, potato starch, and nitrites. More than 8 billion cans have been sold since Spam’s introduction by Hormel, and it’s currently available in 44 countries on 6 continents. I suspect travelers occasionally smuggle cans into Antarctica, although not sold in local stores there. The original Spam evolved into the 15 varieties available today, examples including Teriyaki and Spam with Bacon. McDonald’s and Burger King include Spam meals on their menu in many parts of the world, and upscale restaurants in certain regions include Spam ingredients in “crafted” dishes. (I placed “crafted” in quotes because I consider the term overused in today’s culture in attempts to impress customers. It is an overworked fad word in the food and drink industry. Sorry for diverging from the Spam topic with the “crafted” term, but it struck a nerve as I wrote it in.) Although Spam is maligned in many parts of the United States, it is revered in many countries and in state of Hawaii. Used in many recipes, Spam is manufactured by Tulip Ltd. in the United Kingdom. Considered a luxury item in South Korea, consumption of Spam in that country brings it to the second largest consumer in the world. (The United States is the biggest consumer.)

Spam fact Video:


SPAM Website

Spam History

Spam - Mystery Meat

Hormel Foods Corporation in Austin, Minnesota introduced Spam in 1937 as a meat that stayed fresh for a very long time. War brought Spam its fame. When the United States entered World War II in 1941, allied troops were supplied Spam as food rations because of its exceptional shelf life in a multitude of harsh environments. Thus, the canned meat became a staple of our soldiers and a needed food supply in England, Russia, Philippines, Guam, and other Pacific islands. British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher later referred to Spam as a “wartime delicacy,” and Soviet Union head, Nikita Khrushchev declared, “Without Spam we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army.”

spam - mystery meat?

During World War II, the United States placed sanctions on Japanese-American Hawaiian residents who mostly ran the deep-sea fishing industry. With the absence of fish, islanders turned to Spam and other canned meats for a source of protein. At the end of the war, Japan needed food, and yes, Spam to the rescue. Returning U.S. soldiers had a different view of the product. Forced to consume Spam so frequently during the war as rations, they regarded the canned food with distaste. Like many soldiers in World War II, South Koreans developed a further appreciation for Spam as a desperately needed food source during that conflict. As a result of those wartime experiences, a generation in many parts of the world associated Spam with needed nourishment. That positive impression of Hormel product has been passed on to following generations for inclusion as an important ingredient in food dish recipes.

Spam Taste Test Video:


The Spam Name Mystery

Spam - Mystery Meat?

The story is that only a few Hormel executives know the true meaning of the “SPAM” nomenclature. Ken Daigneau, a Hormel’s VP’s brother, suggested the brand in a naming contest run before product introduction in 1937. He won $100 and the rights to name the product, but the rationale for the name has been kept secret throughout the years. The following list are myths for the meaning of “Spam” held by various camps in the public:

  • Spiced Ham
  • Scientifically Processed Animal Matter
  • Shoulder of Pork And Ham
  • Spare Meat
  • Specially Processed American Meat
  • Specially Processed Army Meat
  • And a final perspective: Spam means nothing at all…Just a concocted name that sounds right for the product.

Spam, The Internet, & Entertainment

Spam - Mystery Meat?
Spam Viking by Delilah

Spam’s notoriety resulted in use by the entertainment industry. Spam appears in music, games, and movies, the most notable relating to the British, Monty Python Flying Circus TV show and Monty Python movies. This history brought about the current musical, Spamalot. Not the comedic taste for everyone, but many find Monty Python humor exceedingly funny. I am one of those.

This is the Monty Python Spam song:



And this the Monty Python Flying Circus Spam sketch. This sketch spawned the term “spam” when describing unwanted emails on the internet.:





The following passage from the upcoming novel, Three Remain, prompted this post:

Upon arriving at the house, they unpacked the car, and Glen prepared a gourmet meal of Spam sandwiches and potato chips, about which Sunshine observed, “Really…you brought back steaks, and you decided on this?”

“Well I haven’t had any since I was a kid and I remembered my mom putting cut up pickles in it and I figured since Traci was here it might be a treat for her.”

Eyeing the dishes on the table, Traci asked, “What’s Spam?

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