Even if you’ve never tried it, you’ve probably heard of Spam. No, we’re not talking about the electronic mail that shows up in your inbox a gazillion times a day. But rather, that canned mystery meat made by Hormel Foods Corporation. So, what is spam exactly? What is Spam made of? And what are some other facts about Spam? We hope you’re hungry!
What Is Spam Made of?
The name of the product doesn’t exactly make it sound appealing. Eating something called “Spam” seems like it can only end badly, but it’s been around since 1937. Because it is meat stored in a can, Spam became incredibly popular during WWII as a way to feed soldiers. It was light, transportable, and could be eaten cold, so it was an ideal way to get soldiers nutrients.
Spam definitely sounds like it should have ingredients that have never been heard of before, but it only contains already-cooked pork (derived from ham or pork shoulder), salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrate. This last ingredient is a common preservative and it prevents bacteria from growing on the meat, but it may or may not be healthy for humans. Spam also contains a lot of sodium, which is definitely not good for people in large doses.
Why Is It Called Spam?
It’s unknown exactly where the name “Spam” came from. It’s possible it’s short for “special processed American meat” or that it’s a shortening of the words “spiced ham.” It could have also potentially been an acronym for its ingredients, specifically “shoulders of pork and ham.”
Who Eats Spam?
Some people may be surprised to learn that well more than 7 billion cans of Spam have been sold, and the product can be found in 41 countries across the globe. Some places, including McDonald’s in Hawaii, even have Spam items on the menu. It’s also incredibly popular in Asia and Guam.
Spam is actually very versatile as an ingredient, and there are many dishes that can be made with it. For cooks who want to experiment and enjoy new flavors, using this canned meat might be a good thing to try—just not in excess because, remember, lots of sodium. Spam can be broiled, sautéed, baked, grilled, or pan-fried. It can be added to soups, sandwiches, pasta salads, pizzas, casseroles, or stir-fry dishes.
Fun Facts About Spam
Okay, now that you have the basics of what Spam is and who eats it, here are some other fun facts about the canned meat.
1. Spam is made by Hormel and cans that are sold in North America, Australia, and South America are produced in Austin, Minnesota, which is also referred to as “Spam Town USA.”
2. Hormel had thousands of pounds of surplus pork shoulder that they needed to do something with, so Jay C. Hormel created the product that we have today.
3. Spam has a long shelf life and doesn’t require refrigeration to keep it fresh.
4. 100 million pounds of Spam was issued to American, European, and Russian troops during WWII. Apparently, this wasn’t a lot of soldiers’ favorite meal.
5. During the Gulf War, approximately $2 million worth of Spam was sent to soldiers by the Pentagon.
6. 113 million cans of Spam are consumed by Americans every year.
7. Hawaii consumes the most amount of Spam (12 cans per person per year), followed by Alaska (six cans per person per year), and then Alabama, Texas, and Arkansas (three cans per person per year).
8. Spam is considered to be a luxury item in South Korea.
Not everyone enjoys what Spam has to offer, but clearly a lot of other people do. It’s been a part of the American landscape for a long time, and it played a major role in feeding soldiers in WWII. Today, there is a museum dedicated to this beloved meat product, and some places even have Spam festivals and cooking competitions.
At any rate, I think we can all agree that food Spam is better than email spam.