On my last run to Costco a few weeks ago, they had a whiteboard set up listing items that were out of stock. One of them was “SPAM,” which got me thinking that this might be time to revisit an old post on the history of that iconic, tinned meat.
I hope you find it as interesting as I did!
Image courtesy of Pixabay
Growing up as a Minnesota girl, I visited many of the state’s unique sites.
I waded across the headwaters of the Mississippi, and travelled underground 3/4 mile into the Soudan iron mine. I saw the giant statue of Paul Bunyan in Brainerd, and visited sites from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s journeys. I’ve even waved to the Jolly Green Giant, keeping watch up on the hills above LeSueur.
But I’ve never yet made it to the site with arguably the most unique historical flavor–the Spam Museum in Austin, MN.
Opened in 2001, the SPAM® Museum celebrates the history of those iconic blue cans of meat. Love it or hate it, Spam does have some interesting history.
The year was 1937, during the later half of the Great Depression. The Hormel meat company of Austin, MN, spearheaded by the founder’s son, Jay, looked for ways to expand their fresh-meat business into canned goods.
After trial and error, he successfully produced a moist canned meat made from pork shoulder. The company VP’s brother, Ken Daigneau, won the honor of christening the new product, and thus “Spam” was born.
The timing couldn’t have been better.
Hostilities of the of the Second World War opened in 1939, and FDR signed the Lend-Lease Act in 1941, by which the U.S. agreed to aid Allied countries while remaining officially neutral. Supplying the countries and troops embroiled in the conflict became a challenge.
What better product to send abroad to aid Great Britain, the USSR, and later to feed U.S. troops than easily-shipped canned meats like SPAM®? According to the official SPAM® website, over 100 million pounds were shipped to the troops alone.
Of course, even for fans of SPAM®, there’s always the possibility of too much of a good thing. According to one source, jokes such as “Spam is a ham that didn’t pass its physical” were common.
Still, the canned meat helped feed millions. Not bad for an underutilized cut of pork, salt, potato starch, sugar and water.
SPAM® doesn’t seem to be going anywhere today. Featuring 15 flavors including “Hot and Spicy,” “Teriyaki” and “SPAM® with Portuguese Sausage Seasoning,” it is sold in forty-four countries around the world. In 2012, as SPAM® celebrated its 75th anniversary, the company produced its eight millionth can.
Maybe we’ll make it to Austin next time we’re in the Midwest. For the time being, since I can’t think of Spam without singing Monty Python’s Spam song, here it is for your listening pleasure!
My Spamariffic sources for this post are as follows:
So, are you a SPAM® fan? I haven’t had it for a while, though a friend from Hawaii made a wonderful rice dish with it a few years back. How do you like your SPAM®?
Many thanks for visiting!