This post contains affiliate links. If you click & make a purchase, I receive a commission! Thanks! Questions? View my full disclosure.

There’s a SPAM museum?

That’s usually the first question I get when mentioning our visit there (Big Trip 15!) And yes, it’s true. There’s a SPAM museum. They even give out SPAMples! ☺️

Regardless about how you feel about SPAM itself (in my experience, you either love it or hate it – and I definitely love it), the history of SPAM is really quite interesting.

statue of farmer with pigs outside the entrance of the SPAM museum
  • Save

History of Hormel

George A. Hormel opened his meat processing plant in 1891 in Austin, Minnesota. The company initially sold fresh pork products but in 1926 they debuted the Flavor Sealed Ham.

Flavor Sealed Ham was made by vacuum sealing a single, large piece of ham into a can, and then cooking the ham inside the can. The ham would last for several months in the pantry and once opened, it was ready to eat!

The canned ham became popular at the same time as other time-saving modern conveniences such as refrigeration.

From Ham to SPAM

George’s son, Jay Hormel, became president of the company in the late 1920s. Jay had lots of ideas for improvements and new products, one of which was SPAM.

Making the Flavor Sealed Ham created a lot of waste. Scraps of ham left over from the butchering process were being thrown away. Jay decided to use those scraps to create a new product which is now known as SPAM.

SPAM is made by deboning the scraps then combining them into a paste, adding spices and preservatives which is cooked in the can just like the ham was.

spam museum display shows the 6 ingredients of spam
  • Save
Just 6 ingredients!

The recipe for SPAM is really quite simple. Just six ingredients: pork, water, salt, sugar, and sodium nitrate. Recently the company added potato starch which doesn’t change the flavor or texture but soaks up the gelatin that was created when the SPAM was cooked, creating a more pleasant user experience.

And now that I think about it, I’ve noticed that there is much less of that gelatin when I open a fresh can these days. Huh. Even the mighty SPAM can be improved!

SPAM joins the military

SPAM was popular with home cooks, but its popularity really soared when it became part of the military food supply.

During World War II, SPAM was one of several preserved foods that was sent to feed Americans fighting overseas. The meat isn’t fresh but it is a great source of protein, salt, and calories. In addition to being filling and tasty, the canned meat is easy to transport and ready to eat straight out of the can if necessary.

Local cultures that interacted with the American military were also exposed to SPAM. After the war when fresh meat was hard to get, they came to rely on the SPAM they could get a hold of, adding their own local flavor to the meat.

display showing variety of SPAM flavors available in Hawaii along with other Hawaiian symbols such as a pineapple, hula dancer, and Tiki statue.
  • Save
Hawaii is just one of many SPAM-loving cultures featured in the museum.

At the SPAM Factory

A fun display at the SPAM Museum shows the ingredients of SPAM and gives you a chance to can your own SPAM in a timed race down an assembly line. How fast can YOU can a SPAM?!

spam museum mockup of the factory assembly line
  • Save
Can you can faster than the factory? Test your skill!

Another fun activity at the museum – see how you measure up against a stack of SPAM cans! You’re probably a bit taller than Vacation Mouse… Can you even see him down there?!

Vacation Mouse measuring himself against a stack of spam cans
  • Save

Hormel Foods – A Cornerstone of the Community

The Hormel company has been based in Austin, Minnesota since the very beginning and is a large part of the community there. The history is long and sometimes complicated.

The Atlantic and WNYC Studios released a 3-part series about the history of SPAM and the town of Austin from World War II through today. I thought it was very interesting.

SPAM Podcast – How the American Dream Got Canned

SPAM: How the American Dream Got Canned

Part 1 – Uncle SPAM

During World War II, the American dream was exported across the world, one can at a time.

Part 2 – Cram Your Spam

How SPAM built a town—and tore it apart

Part 3 – El Sueno de SPAM

Thirty years after the Hormel strike, a mysterious disease spreads among SPAMtown’s new workforce.

A Brief History of SPAM

Maybe you’re not as much of a podcast lover as I am or maybe you’re just interested in a quick lowdown on the history of SPAM. If that’s the case, perhaps you will enjoy this video from Mental Floss host Justin Dodd. Food History: SPAM

Sharing is Caring!

Share this on Pinterest and spread the word about the fun you can have at the SPAM Museum!

collage of photos including entrance to Spam Museum, Spam character, and varieties of Spam
  • Save

Follow me for more!

What topic will I explore next? What’s my next road trip destination? Sign up for occasional email updates to stay informed!

click photo to sign up for email updates from Behind Every Day
  • Save
You don’t want to be left behind at the rest stop do you? Sign up now to stay up to date on the latest happenings at Behind Every Day!

Get the full itinerary of Big Trip 15

The SPAM Museum was just one stop of many on Big Trip 15. Check out the full itinerary here!

Plan Your Next Trip!

Use my planner to plan your next amazing road trip!

curvy road in background and sample road trip planner pages in foreground with buy button
A printable, customizable travel planner and journal ready to capture your next road trip! From hotel reservations to daily route itineraries, from packing list to daily journal, capture it all in this ready-to-print planner and journal.
  • Save

Similar Posts

One Comment

Comments are closed.