What Exactly Is Spam, Anyway? Everything You Need To Know About This 'Mystery Meat'

Learn more about the processed luncheon meat used in a lot of recipes.

We all know what spam is when it comes to those unwanted emails that we quickly delete. But, what is Spam that comes in a can? Most canned meat is readily identifiable, which makes us consumers feel good about what we are purchasing. There is no question that canned chicken will be chicken and tuna is tuna. Spam, on the other hand, is viewed as somewhat of a mystery. Why isn't it just ham? What is spam, exactly?

If you've been debating buying this speculative meat, you will want to know more about it. It might look a little surprising when you open the can, and the texture, color and gel-like coating might raise questions about how edible it actually is. However, there are plenty of people who swear by Spam and love it. After all, it's been around for 85 years. Whether people grill the Spam or use it in recipes, it's been tasty enough to keep it popular.

Here is everything that you need to know about what Spam is, including some popular recipes that are trending on TikTok.

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Related: Happy Birthday, Spam! 16 Things You Didn't Know About The Brand

What Is Spam?

Spam is the brand name for a processed pork product made by Hormel. It is made up of both ground pork and processed ham, along with other fillers, flavorings and preservatives that give it a long shelf life.

This canned luncheon meat quickly gained popularity because it was an inexpensive alternative to regular meat—which was especially necessary during the Great Depression.

Currently, there are 15 different varieties of Spam which include the following:

Spam Classic, 12 Ounce Can (Pack of 12)

Spam Classic, 12 Ounce Can (Pack of 12)
Spam Classic, 12 Ounce Can (Pack of 12)
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Related: Pumpkin Spice Spam Is Real: The Oddest and Best Pumpkin Spice Products to Try This Fall

How Is Spam Made?

To begin with, the pork and ham combination is pre-ground. Next, salt, sugar and preservatives are added in. The mixture is heated up to the desired temperature to ensure it's fully cooked. Once ready, the mixture is put into 12-ounce cans. The cans then get sent down the line to have lids applied with a vacuum sealer.

Spam Jalapeño, 12 Ounce Can (Pack of 12)

Spam Jalapeño, 12 Ounce Can (Pack of 12)
Spam Jalapeño, 12 Ounce Can (Pack of 12)
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Spam Ingredients

As the Spam website explains, there are only six ingredients:

  • Pork with ham

  • Salt

  • Water

  • Potato starch

  • Sugar

  • Sodium Nitrite

History of Spam

Hormel first introduced the product, Spam, on July 5, 1937. The idea was to make use of pork shoulder which wasn't selling well at the time. Instead of wasting the cut, Hormel put it into Spam, along with some ham. Hormel also wanted to create a type of meat with a long shelf life—so canned luncheon meat was born.

Because getting fresh meat to soldiers during World War II was difficult, Spam became the main meat source for them. During the war, Spam was also introduced to Pacific Islands like Guam, Hawaii, Okinawa and the Philippines.

Related: Hawaiian Macaroni Salad With Spam

How Did Spam Get Its Name?

It all started with a contest put on by Hormel to come up with a name for the new product. Ken Daigneau, brother of Hormel's vice president, won the contest by coming up with the name Spam.

What Does Spam's Name Mean?

According to Spam's website, no one knows! They say, "The significance of the SPAM brand name has long been a subject of speculation. One popular belief says it’s derived from the words 'spiced ham.' The real answer is known by only a small circle of former Hormel Foods executives."

Spam Lite, 12 Ounce Can (Pack of 12)

Spam Lite, 12 Ounce Can (Pack of 12)
Spam Lite, 12 Ounce Can (Pack of 12)
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Is Spam Healthy?

Any processed food can be considered unhealthy, and Spam is no different. It has a high content of fat, sodium and preservatives, which makes it less than desirable for health-conscious individuals.

Even though there are only six ingredients in Spam, it doesn't make the luncheon meat healthy.

Related: If You Want To Lose Weight and Cut Back on Processed Foods, the Primal Diet May Be for You

Recipes With Spam Trending on TikTok

Deep Fried Spam Sticks

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When 38.4 million people have watched a recipe video for deep fried Spam sticks, you know it has to be enticing. The recipe by bayashi has garnered a lot of likes.

Spam Musubi Onigiri

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A popular recipe in Hawaii is for these Japanese-style rice balls that are stuffed with teriyaki spam and dipped in furikake rice seasoning. This easy recipe is by TikToker, yejiskitchenstories.

Spam, Egg and Rice Recipe

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This simple recipe for Spam and egg with rice by missfoodaddict00 is super easy!

Next Up: Over 2.6 Million Pounds of Canned Meat Recalled Due to Contamination Concerns