Spam (food)

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Spam 2.jpg
A can of Spam
Course Main course
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
Cookbook:Spam  Spam
A close-up view of sliced Spam

Spam is a canned precooked meat product made by the Hormel Foods Corporation, first introduced in 1937. 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.[1]

The product has become part of many jokes and urban legends about mystery meat, which has made it part of pop culture and folklore.[2] 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.[3] Nevertheless war torn countries with rationing appreciated Spam.


Ken Daigneau, brother of a Hormel executive, named the product in a 1937 contest and won a $100 prize.[4] 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".[5]

During a webisode of "Cutthroat Kitchen: Alton's After-Show", Alton Brown admitted "And we always have a hard time discussing this product on Food Network because it's a trademarked name" and referred to it as "spiced ham."


The majority ingredient, pork shoulder meat, is mechanically separated from the bone by a hydraulic press and mixed with ham cut from the bone by hand. The meat is ground and after further processing and the addition of the remaining ingredients is cooked in the final tins. [6]

Nutritional data[edit]

75th anniversary can

The ingredients of Spam Classic are: pork shoulder, ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite.[7] Spam is typically sold in cans with a net weight of 340 grams (12 ounces). A 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving of original Spam provides 1,300 kJ (310 Calories or kilocalories), 13 grams of protein (26% DV), 3 grams of carbohydrates (1% DV), 27 grams of total fat (41% DV), including 10 grams of saturated fat (49% DV). The cholesterol content of Spam is 70 milligrams (23% DV). A serving also contains 57% of the recommended daily intake of sodium (1369 milligrams). Spam provides the following vitamins and minerals (% DV): 1% vitamin C, 1% calcium, 5% iron, 3% magnesium, 9% potassium, 12% zinc, and 5% copper.[8]


There are several different flavors of Spam products, including:

  • Spam Classic – original flavor[9]
  • Spam Hot & Spicy – with Tabasco flavor[9]
  • Spam Jalapeño
  • Spam Black Pepper[10]
  • Spam Less Sodium – "25% less sodium"[9]
  • Spam Lite – "33% fewer calories, 25% less sodium, and 50% less fat" – made from pork shoulder meat, ham, and mechanically separated chicken[9]
  • Spam Oven Roasted Turkey[9]
  • Spam Hickory Smoke flavor[9]
  • Spam Spread – "if you're a spreader, not a slicer ... just like Spam Classic, but in a spreadable form"[9]
  • Spam with Bacon[9]
  • Spam with Cheese[9]
  • Spam Garlic
  • Spam Teriyaki
  • Spam Chorizo
  • Spam Tocino (Philippines)

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.

International usage[edit]

A Spam advertisement on the back cover of Time magazine, May 14, 1945

As of 2003, Spam was sold in 41 countries on six continents and trademarked in over 100 countries.[11] In 2007, the seven billionth can of Spam was sold.[4]

United States and territories[edit]

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. [12]

Spam is still quite popular in the United States, but is sometimes associated with economic hardship because of its relatively low cost.[13]

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. Spam was introduced into the aforementioned areas, in addition to other islands in the Pacific such as Okinawa and the Philippine Islands, during the U.S. military occupation after World War II. 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".)[14] Soldiers commonly referred to Spam as "Special Army Meat" due to its introduction during the war. Surpluses of Spam from the soldiers' supplies made their way into native diets. Consequently, Spam is a unique part of the history and effects of U.S. influence in the Pacific.[15]

Spam musubi is a popular snack and lunch food in Hawaii

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.[16][17] In Hawaii, Spam is so popular it is sometimes referred to as "The Hawaiian Steak".[18] One popular Spam dish in Hawaii is Spam musubi, where cooked Spam is combined with rice and nori seaweed and classified as onigiri.[19]

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.[20]

In these locales, varieties of Spam unavailable in other markets are sold. These include Honey Spam, Spam with Bacon, and Hot and Spicy Spam.[15]

In the CNMI, lawyers from Hormel have threatened legal action against the local press for running articles alleging ill-effects of high Spam consumption on the health of the local population.[21][22]

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 has a restaurant with a menu devoted exclusively to Spam, called "Johnny's SPAMarama Menu".[23]

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.[24]

Sandwich de Mezcla is a party staple in Puerto Rico containing Velveeta, Spam, and pimientos between two slices of Wonder Bread.

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom, Spam is often sliced, battered and deep-fried into Spam fritters. It was common in the 1940s, during World War II, as a consequence of rationing and the Lend-Lease Act, when Hormel began to increase production for British and Soviet Union consumption.[25]

After World War II, Newforge Foods, part of the Fitch Lovell group, was awarded the licence to produce the product in the UK (doing so at its Gateacre factory, Liverpool),[26] where it stayed until production switched to the Danish Crown Group (owners of the Tulip Food Company)[27] in 1998, forcing the closure of the Liverpool factory and the loss of 140 jobs.[28] By the early 1970s the name Spam was often misused to describe any tinned meat product containing pork, such as pork luncheon meat.

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.[29]


Spam is often served with rice in Asia.

In China, Spam is an increasingly popular food item, and often used in sandwiches. Hormel has had a joint-venture in Shanghai for 16 years which has been highly successful in promoting Spam.[30] In 2005, its Chinese division was one of the most profitable parts of the company.[31] This development is due, in part, to the increasing per capita income in Shanghai, coupled with the expansion of their food diet toward more meat.

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.[32]

In Hong Kong, Spam is commonly served with instant noodles and fried eggs, and is a popular item in cha chaan teng. Spam is less popular than Ma Ling Meats, its main competitor in the Hong Kong processed meat market, although recent controversies surrounding high salt content in Ma Ling products may allow Spam to gain market share.[33]

In the Philippines, Spam may be eaten with fried rice and eggs or as a sandwich with pandesal. It is often eaten for breakfast. 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.[34]

In South Korea, Spam (Hangul: 스팸; RR: seupaem) is popular 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.[35]

Spam and similar meat preserves can be bought in gift sets that may contain nothing but the meat preserve[36] or include other products such as food oil or tuna.

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. Spam is also remarkably popular to 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.[37][38]

In Israel, 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.[39]

World War 2 and its Legacy[edit]

When the United States of America entered the war in 1941, military officials bought massive amounts of it for the same reason housewives had since the great depression. Spam was affordable, had a very long shelf life, was nutritious and was easily transportable.[citation needed] Before the end of the war over 150 million pounds of Spam had made its way to the front lines.[citation needed] By the end of the war this product became a unifying power amongst American GIs. Not surprisingly Spam also mades its way in WWII language. Uncle Sam became Uncle Spam, the European invasion fleet was Spam Fleet and finally the United Service Organisation (USO) toured the Spam Circuit. [40] Allied armies also relied on Spam. Just as tanks and destroyers Spam was a part of the products America provided the allies through their Lend- Lease program. Margaret Thatcher referred to Spam as a wartime delicacy.[citation needed] Nikita Khrushchev said:" 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. [41] Most canned meat have had a bad reputation for taste before, during and after the war. Spam is usually the brand that comes to mind when these allusions are made because it was the most widely known and popular brand. But according to Carol Wyman in her book Spam: A Biography although the pork shoulder in Hormel’s luncheon loaves was filet mignon compared to the lips, tongue, and yes, even pig snouts competitors put in the ones they came out with following Hormel’s success, consumers couldn’t tell the difference by their appearance.[42]

In popular culture[edit]

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.[43]

Spam was featured in a 1970 Monty Python sketch called "Spam", set in a cafe which only served dishes containing spam, and whose menu ran to 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.[44]

Spam was also referenced in the parody song "Spam"[45] by Weird Al Yankovic.

Spam celebrations[edit]

Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota

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.[46]

Hawaii holds an annual Spam Jam in Waikiki during the last week of April.[47] 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.[48]

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.[49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Campbell, Belinda; Clapton, Barbara; Tipton, Catherine (2002). Food Technology. Heinemann. p. 20. 
  2. ^ Jones, Lisa (October 2006). Men's Health. Rodale Inc. p. 132. 
  3. ^ "RFC 2635 - DON\x27T SPEW A Set of Guidelines for Mass Unsolicited Mailings and Postings (spam*):". Retrieved 2010-09-29. 
  4. ^ a b "SPAM Brand History". Retrieved July 3, 2013. 
  5. ^ What does the SPAM brand name mean?
  6. ^
  7. ^ "What is SPAM Classic?". Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  8. ^ "Nutritional Facts and Analysis for Spam". Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i "SPAM© Products". Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  10. ^ Purchased at Safeway
  11. ^ Hormel Foods (2010). "Spam – Postwar Popularity". Hormel Foods Corporation. 
  12. ^ Kim, Sojin; Livengood, Mark (1995). “Ramen Noodles and Spam: Popular Foods, Significant Tastes”, pp. 2-11. Retrieved September 18, 2014.
  13. ^ Martin, Andrew (November 15, 2008). "Spam Turns Serious and Hormel Turns Out More". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2010. 
  14. ^ American Eats, History Channel Programme
  15. ^ a b Song, Jaymes (June 11, 2007). "Burger giants wage Spam war". Toronto: The Star. 
  16. ^ "Burger King to Serve Spam in Hawaii". Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  17. ^ Huppert, Boyd (May 17, 2007). "Land of 10,000 Stories — Spam in Paradise". KARE11 News. 
  18. ^ "The Spam That Isn't Via E-Mail". The New York Times. April 7, 2003. Retrieved December 28, 2007. 
  19. ^ "Spam — Hawaiian Spam Musubi". Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  20. ^ Lovegren, Sylvia (2005). Fashionable food: seven decades of food fads. United States: University of Chicago Press. p. 190. ISBN 978-0-226-49407-4. Retrieved December 13, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Organic smoke (and mirrors)". Saipan Tribune. July 21, 2006. Retrieved June 21, 2009. 
  22. ^ "A junkie waiting to happen". Saipan Tribune. July 14, 2006. Retrieved June 21, 2009. 
  23. ^ "Spam Turns Serious and Hormel Turns Out More". The New York Times. 2008-11-14. Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  24. ^ "Hormel Foundation History". Retrieved 2013-07-05. 
  25. ^ Atkins, Annette (2008). Creating Minnesota: A History From the Inside Out. Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-87351-633-4. Retrieved December 13, 2010. 
  26. ^ The story of Fitch Lovell Ambrose Keevil Phillimore Press 1972 ISBN 978-0-85033-074-8
  27. ^ "Tulip Food Company". Retrieved June 21, 2009. 
  28. ^ Oborne, Peter. "Spam firm faces closure after serving its last slice". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved June 21, 2009. [dead link]
  29. ^ Hardill, Irene; Graham, David; Kofman, Eleonore (2001). Human geography of the UK: an introduction. London: Routledge. pp. 96–97. ISBN 978-0-415-21426-1. Retrieved December 13, 2010. 
  30. ^ Minter, Adam (September 10, 2010). "Pawlenty in Shanghai: What's at stake for Minnesota?". Retrieved June 14, 2011. 
  31. ^ "USA: Hormel Foods earnings rise for Q4, year". November 24, 2005. Retrieved June 14, 2011. 
  32. ^ Sieg, Linda (March 12, 2008). "Okinawa cuisine: tofu, Spam and root beer". Reuters. Retrieved September 24, 2010. 
  33. ^ "Lunch meat menace sparks heart warning". Beatrice Siu (The Hong Kong Standard). April 16, 2010. Retrieved September 24, 2010. 
  34. ^ "Hormel Foods Announces Donation to Philippines". editorial staff. October 8, 2009. Retrieved September 24, 2010. 
  35. ^ Walraven, Boudewijn; Breuker, Remco E. (2007). Korea in the middle: Korean studies and area studies : essays in honour of Boudewijn Walraven. Leiden: CNWS Publications. pp. 255–257. ISBN 978-90-5789-153-3. Retrieved December 13, 2010. 
  36. ^ Image of a ? Spam gift set
  37. ^ Lewis, George H. (2004). "From Minnesota Fat to Seoul Food: Spam in America and the Pacific Rim". The Journal of Popular Culture, volume 34, issue 2. , [1]
  38. ^ "In South Korea, Spam Is the Stuff Gifts Are Made Of, The New York Times January 26, 2014". , [2]
  39. ^ "הצדעה ללוף, שייצורו הופסק באחרונה בישראל" [Salute for Loof, production of which was recently ceased in Israel]. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  40. ^ Smith, Andrew. Bruce, Kraig. "The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America". Oxford University Press, Jan 31, 2013, p.343.
  41. ^ Heydt, Bruce. "Spam Again" . America in WWII, June 2006.
  42. ^ Wyman, Carol. Spam: A Biography: The Amazing True Story of America's "Miracle Meat". July, 1, 1999.
  43. ^ Danelle D. Keck, Jill M. Sullivan (2007). "The Hormel Girls, American Music, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Fall, 2007), pp. 282–311". University of Illinois Press. Retrieved September 23, 2010. 
  44. ^ "Merriam Webster Dictionary". Merriam-Webster. 
  45. ^ "WEIRD AL YANKOVIC - SPAM LYRICS". Retrieved August 3, 2014. 
  46. ^ Garber, Anne; Keyes, John (September 15, 2010). "Wham, bam, thank you Spam". The Vancouver Courier. Retrieved September 25, 2010. 
  47. ^ Hormel Foods (2010). "Spam Jam Waikiki 2010". Hormel Foods Corporation. Retrieved December 13, 2010. 
  48. ^ Pitto, Christy (December 7, 2010). "Shady Cove issues- riparian, event insurance and liability". Upper Rogue Independent. Retrieved December 13, 2010. 
  49. ^ "Spamarama website". Retrieved August 11, 2006. 

Further reading[edit]

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