B2 High-Intermediate US 91 Folder Collection
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Let's face it — Spam is weird stuff.
It might look like a block of mystery meat and taste suspiciously delicious, but it turns
out there's a lot that goes into each and every can of Spam.
Here's how Spam is really made.
Spam is a weird thing, a tin of long-lasting, weirdly-textured, inexplicably good... meat
Things like Spam don't just happen.
Someone had to intentionally do this.
The question is: why?
And how?
Spam has its origins in the late 20's, when Jay Hormel took over his father's meat company.
Hormel was always looking for the next big thing, so when he saw a deli selling canned
meat carved into slices, he latched onto the idea.
The meat was originally formed into six-pound molds, and customers who wanted some had it
sliced at the deli.
Hormel figured he could cut out the middleman and sell miniature canned meats directly to
people who could then slice it themselves.
The idea for Spam was born, though it would take a few years to be perfected, finally
debuting in 1937.
Hormel decided early on that Spam would primarily consist of pork shoulder, a part of the pig
that at the time was rarely used as it was difficult to process.
Spam starts looking less like pigs and more like Spam when the meat is sliced from the
bone — a process done by hand — and ground into 8,000-pound batches.
These days, given the worldwide popularity of Spam, the company needs a lot of piggy
shoulders to meet demand, which is why their partners at Quality Pork Processors, Inc.
slaughter over 20,000 pigs every single day.
Most domestic Spam is processed in Nebraska, but Hormel also has overseas plants in South
Korea, the Philippines, and Denmark.
Spam has an image of being mostly a weird sort of mystery meat, but there's only six
ingredients: pork (with ham), salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite.
That's it!
Still, you might be wondering why some of those ingredients are in your meat to begin
The sodium nitrate is there to prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause food poisoning
if it's ingested, since no one wants their Spam with a side of botulism.
It's also what gives Spam that distinctive pink color, thanks to a chemical reaction
that happens between the nitrites and the protein in the meat.
And the potato starch helps to hold everything together while preventing the meat from drying
out too much in the can.
It's actually a recent addition to the recipe, as it was only added in 2009.
After the meat is hand carved from the bone, it's ground up in 8,000 pound batches.
A metal detector is used to make sure nothing has gotten into the batch in any part of the
process, and then it's transferred to a series of vacuum mixers that are capable of super-chilling
the batch to freezing.
The rest of the ingredients are dumped in, the mixer is sealed to be airtight, and it's
Why the cold and the vacuum?
It's to help prevent a huge amount of liquid from being released when the meat is cooked.
Once the Spam is all perfectly mixed, it's funneled into the cans, which are vacuum sealed,
giving Spam its infamously long shelf life.
How long?
Hormel says if you store it properly, a can of Spam could last indefinitely.
Usually, though, it starts to go off about five years after its "best by" date, so if
you've got some old Spam in your doomsday bunker, you should probably eat it now.
"I have the best stocked survival shelter in northeastern Pennsylvania, but everything
has a shelf life, so I must eat and then replace everything that's about to expire."
Once the Spam is canned, then it's time to cook it.
Yes, it sounds backwards, but Spam is actually cooked inside the can!
The cans are sent to a massive hydrostatic cooker, where the cans are cooked, sterilized,
washed, and finally cooled.
How big is the machine?
It can actually process up to 33,000 cans every hour!
And they need to make that many cans, because despite being a punchline to some, Hormel
estimates they sell three cans every second, with over 8 billion cans sold since Spam was
first introduced.
That's way more than just a mere ton of Spam — literally, as it just takes 2,666 cans
of Spam to equal one ton.
There's no signs that interest in Spam is going away anytime soon, either, as it shows
up in an estimated one in three American households.
But that doesn't hold a candle to some of the biggest Spam consumers in the world.
Spam is especially popular in Hawai'i and Guam, where the canned meat became a beloved
dietary staple when Allied troops introduced it to locals during World War II.
Hawai'i and Guam both vie for the crown of the most Spam-happy place on Earth, but at
last calculation, the crown was officially held by Guam, where the average citizen consumes
16 cans of Spam per year.
You can even get it at McDonald's.
Everyone's familiar with those distinctive blue and yellow cans, right?
Absolutely, and that's what makes it so surprising that there's an extra step that goes into
the making of Spam in South Korea: it's often packaged up as part of a gift set.
The New York Times looked at South Korea's favorite gifts for the Lunar New Year.
It was a list that included things like rare tea, imported wines, fine cuts of beef...
and Spam.
American soldiers also brought Spam with them to South Korea during the Korean War in the
1950's, which is why Spam is today considered a luxurious delicacy.
In fact, it's often given as a sign of respect to important people during the Christmas season.
As one saleswoman told The New York Times,
"Here, Spam is a classy gift you can give to people you care about during the holiday."
"Oh yeah."
"That's the sound of quality!"
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This Is How Spam Is Really Made

91 Folder Collection
Sophie published on December 25, 2019
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