SPAM; An Unnatural History


My product was SPAM classic; and as it is quite a popular item that has been in shelves for over 80 years, tracking this product was not difficult, although finding important details about where the ingredients came from was actually very difficult. SPAM is both loved and hated by many. Beginning my research, my objective was to find out the truth behind what goes into this canned ham, and how could a piece of unrefrigerated SPAM meat go unspoiled for years? The nutritional facts on the label can only go so far to say the truth, and I was curious to find out how SPAM stood the test of time, became The United States Armed Forces primary food source in WWII, and still yet go unspoiled?

Given that SPAM has always been perceived as a mysterious meat, I still see the product quite the same, even though I feel more familiar about the brand, and its history. According to the website published by SPAM and Hormel Foods, SPAM is only created with six simple ingredients: pork shoulder, salt, sodium nitrate, potato starch, water, and sugar. At first thought, this doesn’t seem so bad if we neglect the quality of ingredients used, and the manner in which Hormel, the corporation that owns the brand, buys from slaughterhouses where livestock are unethically killed. I found that Sodium nitrate, and the air tight packaging seal are what extend the shelf life of SPAM. I’ve concluded that yes, the recipe is simple; nevertheless the ingredients are of low quality, and the company’s process is corrupt and immoral. I’m not surprised by my findings since I’ve always treated SPAM, and any other major food corporation, with skepticism. What I can say is that SPAM succeeded in keeping most of their information private, which I think is interesting in that it keeps our inability to know what goes into our food as a way to cement their power in the food market. It keeps us from having a voice in the food industry, by not subjecting us to the truth about what we eat. When I come across SPAM at a grocery store, I will still look at it with mystery.

-Alex Gavin


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