|Place of origin||United States|
|Creator||Hormel Foods Corporation|
|Serving temperature||Hot or Cold|
|Main ingredients||Pork shoulder and ham|
|Other information||A canned precooked meat product|
Spam is a brand of several canned precooked meat products made by the Hormel Foods Corporation. It was first introduced in 1937 and gained popularity worldwide after its use during World War II. The labeled ingredients in the classic variety of Spam are chopped pork shoulder meat, with ham meat added, salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder, sugar, and sodium nitrite as a preservative. Spam's gelatinous glaze forms from the cooling of meat stock.
The product has become part of many jokes and urban legends about mystery meat, which has made it part of pop culture and folklore. Through a Monty Python sketch, in which Spam is portrayed as ubiquitous and inescapable, its name has come to be given to electronic spam, especially spam email.
Ken Daigneau, brother of a Hormel executive, named the product in a 1937 contest and won a $100 prize. Hormel claims that the meaning of the name "is known by only a small circle of former Hormel Foods executives", but popular beliefs are that the name is an abbreviation of "spiced ham" or "shoulders of pork and ham".
During the U.S. military occupation after World War II, Spam was introduced into Guam, Hawaii, Okinawa, the Philippine Islands, and other islands in the Pacific. Since fresh meat was difficult to get to the soldiers on the front, World War II saw the largest use of Spam when it was served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some soldiers referred to Spam as "ham that didn't pass its physical" and "meatloaf without basic training". Soldiers also commonly referred to Spam as "Special Army Meat" due to its introduction during the war. The product was purchased very often due to its affordability, accessibility, long-lasting shelf life, and ease of transportation. In fact, over 150 million pounds of Spam was purchased by the military before the war’s end. This surplus of Spam from the soldiers' supplies eventually made its way into native diets. Consequently, Spam is a unique part of the history and effects of U.S. influence in the Pacific.
During the same time period, the product gained prominence within the United Kingdom. As a consequence of rationing and the Lend-Lease Act, Hormel began to increase production for British and Soviet Union consumption. When Spam was first introduced to Europe, its impact was significant. Margaret Thatcher referred to the product as a “wartime delicacy”. Nikita Khrushchev further added that: "without Spam we wouldn't have been able to feed our army". Countries ravaged by the war and faced with strict food rations came to appreciate Spam.
Although Spam received praise, it also had its critics. Canned meat often had a two-sided reputation even before the war, however, this issue became more prominent during and after WWII. In regards to Spam, although the pork shoulder used in Hormel’s luncheon loaves was filet mignon (compared to the meat from the lips, tongue, and snouts used by competitors), consumers could not tell the difference by their appearance.
After World War II, Newforge Foods, part of the Fitch Lovell group, was awarded the license to produce the product in the UK (doing so at its Gateacre factory, Liverpool), where it stayed until production switched to the Danish Crown Group (owners of the Tulip Food Company) in 1998, forcing the closure of the Liverpool factory and the loss of 140 jobs. By the early 1970s the name Spam was often misused to describe any tinned meat product containing pork, such as pork luncheon meat.
In later years, the surfeit of Spam in both North and South Korea during the Korean War led to the establishment of the Spam kimbap (rice and vegetable filled seaweed roll). Because of a scarcity of fish and other traditional kimbap products such as kimchi or fermented cabbage, Spam was added to a rice roll with kimchi and cucumber and wrapped in seaweed. Spam was also used by US soldiers in Korea as a means of trading for items, services or information around their bases.
United States and territories
Statistics from the 1990s say that every second 3.8 cans of Spam are consumed by an American which totals to nearly 122 million cans annually. Integrated into the meals of almost 30% of households in America, Spam however is perceived differently in various regions of the United States. For example, although popular, the product is sometimes associated with economic hardship because of its relatively low cost.
On average, each person on Guam consumes 16 tins of Spam each year and consumption is similar in Hawaii and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) (including Saipan, the CNMI's principal island). These areas have the only McDonald's restaurants that feature Spam on the menu.
The residents of the state of Hawaii consume the most Spam per capita in the United States. Hawaiian Burger King restaurants began serving Spam in 2007 to compete with the local McDonald's chains. In Hawaii, Spam is so popular that it is sometimes referred to as "The Hawaiian Steak". One popular Spam dish in Hawaii is Spam musubi, where cooked Spam is combined with rice and nori seaweed and classified as onigiri.
The perception of Spam in Hawaii is very different from that on the mainland. Despite the large number of mainlanders who consume Spam, and the various recipes that have been made from it, Spam, along with most canned food, is often stigmatized on the mainland as "poor people's food". In Hawaii, similar canned meat products such as Treet are considered cheaper versions of canned meat than Spam. This is a result of Spam having the initial market share and its name sounding more convincing to consumers.
In these locales, varieties of Spam unavailable in other markets are sold. These include Honey Spam, Spam with Bacon, and Hot and Spicy Spam.
Spam that is sold in North America, South America, and Australia is produced in Austin, Minnesota (also known as "Spam Town USA") and in Fremont, Nebraska. Austin, Minnesota also has a restaurant with a menu devoted exclusively to Spam, called "Johnny's SPAMarama Menu".
In 1963, Spam was introduced to various private and public schools in South Florida as cheap food and even for art sculptures. Due to the success of the introduction, Hormel Foods also introduced school "color-themed" spam, the first being a blue and green variety which is still traditionally used in some private schools of South Florida.
The United Kingdom has adopted Spam into various recipes. For example, recipes include Spam Yorkshire Breakfast, Spamish Omelette, and Spam Hash. Spam can also be sliced, battered and deep-fried into Spam fritters.
The image of Spam as a low cost meat product gave rise to the Scottish colloquial term "Spam valley" to describe certain affluent housing areas where residents appear to be wealthy but in reality may be living at poverty levels.
In China, Spam is a popular food item, and often used in sandwiches. Hormel decided to adopt a different strategy to market Spam in China, promoting it as a foreign, premium food product and changing the Spam formula to be meatier in order to accommodate to local Chinese tastes.
In Okinawa, Japan, the product is added into onigiri alongside eggs, used as a staple ingredient in the traditional Okinawan dish chanpurū, and a Spam burger is sold by local fast food chain Jef. For the 70th anniversary of Spam in 2007, cans with special designs were sold in Japan due to its popularity, primarily in Okinawa. Following the March 2011 earthquake, Spam sales in Japan declined and Hormel shifted its focus to China  although Hormel did pledge to donate $100,000 along with cans of Spam for relief efforts. In the summer of 2011, Burger King introduced its own version of a burger made of Spam, called ‘BK Shot’ Spam Burgers. These small burgers are filled with slices of the canned meat and was an attempt by Burger King to capitalize on Spam’s popularity in Japan. In early 2014, Burger King also introduced the Spam and Cheese burger as a breakfast menu item.
In Hong Kong after World War II, meat was scarce and expensive, so Spam was an accessible, affordable alternative. The luncheon meat has been incorporated into dishes such as macaroni with fried egg and spam in chicken soup, as well as ramen.
In the Philippines, Spam is a popular food item and seen as a cultural symbol. It is prepared and used in a variety of ways, including being fried, served alongside condiments, or used in sandwiches. The canned meat’s popularity transcends economic class, and Spam gift sets are even used as homecoming gifts. There are more than 9 different varieties of Spam currently available in the country and an estimated 1.25 million kilos of the meat is sold every year in the Philippines. During the rescue efforts after Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009, Hormel Foods donated over 30,000 pounds of Spam to the Philippine National Red Cross.
In South Korea, Spam (Hangul: 스팸; RR: seupaem) is popular with a majority of the population, and outranks Coca-Cola and KFC in status as a foodstuff. Today, South Korea produces and consumes more Spam than any other country except the United States. It is commonly used in households as an accompaniment to rice. A local television advertisement claims that it is the tastiest when consumed with white rice and gim (laver seaweed used for some types of handrolls). Spam products currently being sold in Korea are made with more high-quality ingredients than other countries. Spam gained its popularity during and after the Korean War as a smuggled or leaked ration. The Korean manufacturer took advantage of the name and improved it over time as the country became richer. Because of this, Spam in Korea tastes different from the ones sold in other countries, and is a relatively expensive product compared to its competitors in Korea. Spam is also an original ingredient in budae jjigae ("army base stew"), a spicy stew with different types of preserved meat. Spam and similar meat preserves can be bought in gift sets that may contain nothing but the meat preserve or include other products such as food oil or tuna.
In Israel, demand for kosher canned meats increased as Spam became more popular during World War II. Canned meat was briefly mentioned during wartime from 1930–43, but the true boom in kosher canned meat came in 1945. This is when kosher canned meat became the key item in Europe’s Jew war victim relief packages. Then in 1946, the Chicago Kosher Sausage Manufacturing Company registered a patent for a kosher canned meat product called Breef. Made of beef, Breef has a similar texture to Spam but tastes like corned beef. Also, a kosher variant of Spam, known as Loof (Hebrew: לוף, distortion of meatloaf), was produced by Richard Levi, and mostly used as part of field rations by the Israel Defense Forces. A Glatt kosher version was also produced. It was phased out of field rations during the early 2000s and was finally removed from rations when production ceased in 2009.
In popular culture
During WWII, Spam was not only eaten, but was also incorporated into many other aspects of the war front (grease for guns, can for scrap metal, etc.). In fact, it was so prominent that Uncle Sam was nicknamed “Uncle Spam”. Other terms influenced by the product’s name include the European invasion fleet, or the “Spam Fleet”. Furthermore, the United Service Organizations (USO) toured the “Spam Circuit”.
In the United States in the aftermath of World War II, a troupe of former servicewomen was assembled by Hormel Foods to promote Spam from coast to coast. The group was known as the Hormel Girls and associated the food with being patriotic. In 1948, two years after its formation, the troupe had grown to 60 women with 16 forming an orchestra. The show went on to become a radio program where the main selling point was Spam. The Hormel Girls was disbanded in 1953.
Spam was featured in a 1970 Monty Python sketch called "Spam", set in a cafe which only served dishes containing spam, and whose menu included such items as "spam, sausage, spam, spam, bacon, spam, tomato and spam". The sketch also featured an eponymous song. In the 1990s, this led to the adoption of the term "email spam" to refer to unwanted electronic junk mail whose quantity can overwhelm genuine messages.
Other offshoots of Spam in popular culture include a book of haikus about spam titled Spam-Ku: Tranquil Reflections on Luncheon Loaf. There is also a mock Church of Spam, and a Spam Cam which is a webcam trained on a can of decaying spam.
Spam is celebrated in Austin, Minnesota, home to the Spam Museum. The museum tells the history of the Hormel company, the origin of Spam, and its place in world culture. Austin is also the location of final judging in the national Spam recipe competition. Competing recipes are collected from winning submissions at the top 40 state fairs in the nation. The Spamettes are a quartet from Austin who only sing about Spam in parodies of popular songs. They first performed at the first Spam Jam in 1990 and continue to perform at various events.
Hawaii holds an annual Spam Jam in Waikiki during the last week of April. The small town of Shady Cove, Oregon is home to the annual Spam Parade and Festival, with the city allocating US$1,500 for it.
Spamarama was a yearly festival held around April Fool's Day in Austin, Texas. The theme of Spamarama was a gentle parody of Spam, rather than a straightforward celebration: the event at the heart of the festival was a Spam cook-off that originated as a challenge to produce the most appetizing recipe for the meat. A rule of the event was that contestants had to be prepared to eat the Spam dish if requested by a judge. The festival included light sporting activities and musical acts, in addition to the cook-off.
The ingredients of Spam vary according to variety and market, those of one variety "Spam Classic" are: pork shoulder, ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite.
Net weight per package: 340 grams (12 oz.)
Serving size: 100g
|Quantity per 100g|
|Energy||1,300 kJ ( 310 Calories or kilocalories)|
|Protein||13g (26% Daily Value or DV)|
|Total Fat||27g (41% DV)|
|- saturated fat||10g (49% DV)|
|Carbohydrates||3g (1% DV)|
|Sodium||1369 mg (57% DV)|
|Cholesterol||70 mg (23% DV)|
|Vitamins and Minerals (% DV)||1% Vitamin C, 1% Calcium, 5% Iron,
3% Magnesium, 9% Potassium, 12% Zinc,
and 5% Copper
As listed on the official Spam website, there are numerous different flavors of Spam products, including:
- Spam Classic – original flavor
- Spam Hot & Spicy – with Tabasco flavor
- Jalapeño Spam
- Spam with Black Pepper
- Spam Low Sodium – "25% less sodium"
- Spam Lite – "33% fewer calories, 25% less sodium, and 50% less fat" – made from pork shoulder meat, ham, and mechanically separated chicken
- Spam Oven Roasted Turkey
- Spam Hickory Smoked
- Spam Spread – "if you're a spreader, not a slicer ... just like Spam Classic, but in a spreadable form"
- Spam Bacon
- Spam Cheese
- Spam Garlic
- Spam Teriyaki
- Spam Chorizo
In addition to the variety of flavors, Spam is sold in tins smaller than the twelve-ounce standard size. Spam Singles are also available, which are single sandwich-sized slices of Spam Classic or Lite, sealed in retort pouches.
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