Long before SPAM stood for unwanted blasts of email, it was an acronym for “Special Purpose Army Meat” and was a staple among U.S. soldiers during World War II. Learn everything there is to know– past and present– about this famous canned meat at the SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota, a.k.a. “SPAMTOWN U.S.A.” The free museum is 16,500 square feet of fun and is filled with SPAM memorabilia, artifacts, vintage advertising, and everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the history of SPAM and its creator, the Hormel Foods Corporation.
To say that the museum exhibits are unique is an understatement! A towering wall of 3,390 SPAM cans greets the museum’s 100,000 annual visitors as soon as they step in the door. Life-sized vignettes of Hormel Foods founder George Hormel and his son Jay, plus George’s own desk and an original time clock from Hormel Foods’ early days are on display. A replica military camp called SPAMVILLE and a special exhibit of Monty Python’s classic three-minute SPAM skit, are also highlights. “Spambassadors” roam the floor of the SPAM Museum, acting as guides, so don’t be shy if you have a question. You can also shop for souvenirs in the huge gift shop. Anything you can possibly stick a logo on is available—from mugs, hats, and shirts to flip-flops, purses, and even accessories for dogs!
SPAM trivia is everywhere throughout the museum. Did you know that an actor from New York won the SPAM naming contest? He was awarded $100, which was a tidy sum back in 1936. And did you realize that in the United States, 100 million cans in 13 varieties are sold every year? Contrary to popular belief, SPAM is not a “mystery” meat. The Classic version is made just of a few ingredients: pork with ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar and sodium nitrate (to retain the pink color). Ham and pork are technically different cuts of meat. Ham is a designation for meat taken only from the upper rear leg of the hog.
Perhaps the best part of visiting the SPAM Museum is donning a white lab coat and hardhat, just like real SPAM factory workers wear, and trying your hand at canning SPAM. A tabulator compares your time with that of real production staff, and you quickly learn that packaging the product is no easy task!
SPAM Museum • 1101 N. Main St. • Austin, MN 55912 • 1-800-LUV-SPAM
Free admission • Monday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday: Noon to 5 p.m
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com