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When was the last time you bought Spam?

Veteran Member
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Joined: Aug 4, 2006


Posted to Thread #18921 at 7:12 pm on Sep 3, 2010

Spam History

Spam is made by the Hormel Foods Corporation. The company was founded by George A. Hormel in the late 1890s in Austin, Minn. By the Great Depression, George's son Jay was heavily involved in the company. Hormel did a successful fresh-meat business, but all fresh meats basically looked similar, which made it difficult for Hormel to make its products stand out. The fresh-meat industry was also bound by seasonal changes in the meat supply. To solve these problems, Jay Hormel put his energies into developing canned meats.

Canning meat introduced its own problems. Heat often caused cell walls to break down and release all of the water in the meat. The result was dry meat and water in a can. Much experimentation was needed to devise the exact canning process that would leave the meat preserved, yet moist. A precise amount of heat and salt must be used, and it's also important for the meat to be mixed and canned in a vacuum.

Canned ham was a reasonably successful Hormel product, but Jay Hormel wanted to get some use out of an underutilized cut of meat -- pork shoulders. At first, Spam was made entirely of shoulder meat. Hormel introduced the ham/shoulder blend later. Actor Kenneth Daigneau coined the Spam name in a naming contest at a New Year's Eve party. Hormel claims that the word is a blend of the words "spiced ham," though Spam lovers and haters have suggested many other meanings and acronyms over the decades. On May 11, 1937, Spam was officially born when Hormel registered a trademark for the name.

However, it was World War II that cemented Spam's reputation in its home country and introduced the product to consumers around the world. Before the United States entered the war, Spam and other foods were shipped to Allied countries as part of the lend-lease program. When U.S. soldiers went to Europe and the Pacific, they carried Spam in their K-rations. Or did they?

Most of the Spam eaten by soldiers was actually government meat that was canned by Hormel and other companies that were under contract to the military. Only a few soldiers received genuine Spam.

Nevertheless, to the soldiers it was Spam that they came to know and hate. They felt like they had Spam for every meal and ran out of ways to prepare it. The universal dislike -- they wrote songs about how much they hated the stuff -- probably had less to do with the actual taste of Spam than with how often they were forced to eat it.

Regardless of their opinion on Spam during the war, soldiers who returned to the United States when the war was over brought a taste for Spam with them. With the aid of an advertising blitz, Spam sales increased after the war.

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