Whether you like it or not, Spam has been a part of American culture since World War II and it’s not going anywhere. For every group of people that can’t stand Spam, there is another camp that is obsessed with the stuff to an almost cult-like degree.

However, did you know that over 8 billion cans of Spam (yes, that’s a billion with a ‘B’!) have been sold globally since the product’s launch 80 years ago? It’s a mind-bending fact, but it’s actually one of the canned meat’s less interesting details.

Since Spam is kind of a mystery to us, we give you some little-known facts about the remarkable canned good.

Spam, the meat, hasn’t gotten its fair shake as far as we’re concerned. Sure, the connection to junk mail hasn’t helped! But with a short ingredient list, lots of versatility, and 15 different varieties out there, it’s time to take another look at the iconic canned ham with a history.

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 troops during World War II, and while the Europeans the GI’s exposed to the canned meat largely didn’t want to have anything to do with it  (except for the British), those on the Pacific front fell in love with it, and it’s still extremely popular there to this day.

Believe it or not, Spam contains only 6 simple ingredients: pork with ham, salt, water, potato starch (this prevents moisture from forming inside the can), sugar, and sodium nitrate (for long shelf life). Yum?

Before the product launched, a brother of a Hormel Foods executive gave the canned meat its official name, Spam. Although the public has never received official confirmation of what the word means, for years there have been whisperings that it is really an acronym.

Some of the best guesses are: “shoulder of pork and ham” or “spiced ham.” Word on the street is that only a handful of Hormel executives who were presiding over the product at the time know the TRUE meaning behind the name. Looks like we’ll never know!

In the U.S., Hawai is the by in large the biggest consumer of Spam. This is because of the Islands’ Japanese influence, a country where Spam has been enjoyed for years in fried rice and seaweed pockets called Spam Musubi.

South Korea is the second largest consumer of the product behind the United States. Koreans use the ingredient to spice up dozens of traditional dishes, but it is most commonly eaten in kimbap, a kind of sushi roll that features egg, rice, veggies, and–you guessed it–Spam!

More details from AWM:

A museum dedicated to all things Spam is located in Austin, Minnesota, the birthplace of the Spam brand. According to the website, the museum “pays tribute to its presence across the world.” Additional Spam bragging rights: Spam product packaging was donated to the Smithsonian in 1998.

If you haven’t been bold enough to give Spam a try, the product’s website explains the taste as: “In a word: magic.” They note, “Of course, we’re biased, and if you haven’t had the good fortune of tasting magic before, that won’t tell you much. Speaking objectively, they taste kinda like ham. They also taste a little like pork roast.” Spam can be grilled, baked, or fried, resulting in different tastes and textures.

The website also explains the process of making Spam, which involves adding ingredients to pre-ground pork and ham, before the mixture is canned, vacuum sealed, and then cooked and cooled for three hours. Labels are applied and the cans are placed in cases and distributed.

The question of the name of Spam was once plagued by retroactive etymology. Some would have you believe that Spam is an acronym for “scientifically processed animal matter,” and while we suppose that’s kind of an accurate description, Eater reports that it’s purely urban legend. So, too, is the apt description of it as “Shoulder of Pork and Ham,” but this feels pretty unwieldy and, the outlet notes are also not the true origin of the word.

Watch it here: Answers/Video

Source: AWM

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