What is SPAM?

What’s in this canned meat, exactly?

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Each can of SPAm contains a whopping 4,696 milligrams of sodium.

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam… is there any food product in existence that’s been mocked more than Spam? Twinkies, possibly, but deep down, everyone secretly loves Twinkies. We can’t say the same thing for Spam. When it comes to Spam you either love it or you hate it, and it’s actually one of the more fascinating food products out there. But just what is it, exactly?

Spam (or officially, SPAM), was introduced by the Hormel Foods Corporation in 1937. At the time, the fact that meat could be kept fresh for years by canning it was incredibly novel. It was rationed to American troops during World War II, and while the Europeans the GIs exposed to the canned meat largely didn’t want to have anything to do with it (except for the British) afterward, those on the Pacific front fell in love with it, and it’s still extremely popular in Hawaii and the South Pacific to this day.

While Spam has a bit of a reputation for being “mystery meat,” it’s actually anything but. Hormel has always been pretty straightforward about what goes into the can, even though people continue to be wary of it. It’s made with pork shoulder and ham, along with salt, water, sugar, potato starch, and nitrites. It’s basically made from the same stuff as hot dogs. 

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So there you have it! Aside from being incredibly unhealthy (each tin contains nearly 100 grams of fat, more than 1,000 calories, 240 milligrams of cholesterol, and a whopping 4,696 milligrams of sodium) it’s really nothing to be afraid of.