The SPAM Museum: Everything You Wanted to Know (and more) about the (In)Famous Canned Meat

You'll have a whole new appreciation for canned meat when you visit the SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota.

Did you know there’s an entire museum dedicated to SPAM? Devyn Raver shares her personal experience with this homage to the canned meat. Scroll down for SPAM facts and details on how you, too, can visit the SPAM Museum.

This piece is part of a series of articles submitted to The Local Tourist through a cooperation with a 400-level travel writing class at Purdue University.

By Devyn Raver

In Austin, Minnesota, SPAM – that much maligned canned cooked pork – runs through the town’s veins. Hormel was founded here in 1891.

Of 25,000 town residents, about 1,800 work at the local Hormel Foods Corporation Plant. In this town, there’s a SPAM T-shirt around every corner. And around the corner from 3rd Ave NE is the SPAM Museum.

So, what led me to the SPAM Museum?

This was not my first time visiting the SPAM Museum as my sister is a Hormel employee. At first, my family and I went to the museum because we thought the experience would be amusing.

I mean, who else could say that they went to an entire museum about SPAM?

My tune quickly changed as I walked around the museum and learned so many facts about Hormel. Not only does SPAM have a rich history, it connects the local and global communities.

After deciding to take a spontaneous trip to Minnesota with my friends, I knew that the SPAM Museum would be on our agenda.

Visiting the SPAM Museum

Spam Museum Austin MN photo by Devyn Raver
Outside entrance to the Austin, Minnesota SPAM Museum

Walking up to the SPAM Museum, a bronze statue of a farmer and two pigs greeted us. This statue gives people a glimpse of Hormel’s history as all products are made out of pork.

Although the farmer is not named, guests can infer that he is Jay Hormel.

Hormel, whose father began the pork packing company in 1891, created SPAM in 1937. This statue has become a great photo opportunity for tourists and is now a recognizable landmark.

Devyn Raver's sister and friends with the famous bronze Hormel statue

Entering the SPAM Museum, it feels as if you are at some sort of strange Midwestern theme park. Much like a theme park, the SPAM Museum has different interactive exhibits that center around one theme…SPAM.

The brightly lit logos and big television screens make it feel like you are waiting in line for a roller coaster. In giant gold, SPAM invites you into the museum.

Don’t let its appearance fool you! This 14,000-square-foot museum is jam-packed with history.

Inside the SPAM Museum, photo by Devyn Raver

Although I have gone to the museum countless times, I really tried to immerse myself in Hormel’s history and learn new facts about this delicious meat. By paying more attention, I learned so much about both the Hormel family and their most distinctive food product.

From family betrayals to the creation of SPAM, the Hormel family truly had a big impact on Austin, Minnesota. The history of Hormel all began with George A. Hormel.

Without having much, George Hormel settled down in the small city of Austin and took a risk, founding Geo. A. Hormel and Company in 1891.

As he passed the company down to his children, it continued to thrive and transform this town.

The Hormel family photographs, photo by Devyn Raver
Hormel family photographs

SPAM was created prior to World War II and was an important part of American soldiers’ diets.

Even though I knew this, I did not know how important it truly was during this time period. Without SPAM, it would have been more difficult for soldiers to ration and stay afloat.

SPAM Around the World

One of the main attractions at the SPAM Museum is what I like to call, “SPAM Around the World”, although its actual title is “Global Marketplace.”

This exhibit showcases SPAM in different countries and the most popular dishes in these countries. The museum wants guests to “take a journey” around the world and learn about each destination’s cultures and cuisines.

Several unique locations within this exhibit include England, Japan, Philippines, South Korea, China, Hawaii, and Latin America. Although there are a select few countries portrayed, I learned that SPAM is enjoyed by more than 40 countries.

SPAM's Global Marketplace, photo by Devyn Raver
SPAM’s Global Marketplace

Guests can play interactive games, such as creating a SPAM inspired van in the Philippines, and learn about SPAM’s contribution to a particular destination.

Each vestibule has a fact sheet posted that discloses how many cans of SPAM are sold yearly and interesting SPAM facts.

Just from reading Latin America’s facts, I learned that the U.S.-Mexican border is 30,903,840 SPAM cans long!

Additionally, you can learn about unique SPAM dishes found in each country. In Japan, they make sushi with SPAM, while SPAM and rice is a common meal in China.

The SPAM Museum appears in Two Lane Gems, Vol. 2: Bison are Giant and Other Observations from an American Road Trip

Among these locations, I thought Hawaii was the most interesting. Although SPAM is not popular in many other U.S. states, Hawaiians have a deep love and appreciation for SPAM that connects them to Austin.

Since 2002, Hawaii has held an annual celebration known as SPAM JAM. At SPAM JAM, Hawaiians walk down Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki and consume a high amount of SPAM.

Honolulu’s best restaurants even serve unique SPAM creations, like SPAM Musubi, which is fried SPAM and rice wrapped in seaweed.

Similar to Hawaii’s festival, Austin has a local SPAM JAM. This summer festival includes fireworks, a parade, games, carnivals, and lots of SPAM.

SPAM JAM is one of the major events that unites SPAM lovers together. Whether you’re from Hawaii or Austin, SPAM pride is truly unmatched.

SPAM's Global Marketplace, photo by Devyn Raver: Hawaii
SPAM’s Global Marketplace: Hawaii

The SPAM Community

After exiting the Global Marketplace, you will see a giant blue “I Heart SPAM” wall mural. This wall mural showcases Minnesotans appreciation for SPAM as Hormel provides the community of Austin with several job opportunities.

I Heart SPAM wall mural, photo by Devyn Raver

The dedication to SPAM goes beyond the Austin community as well. In fact, at the Minnesota SPAM Museum, I learned that a couple actually had their wedding in the museum.

Hormel Foods was more than happy to pay for the couple’s wedding and the couple even took part in Hawaii’s SPAM JAM parade.

A Spammy Wedding, photo by Devyn Raver
A SPAMmy wedding.

Next door to the SPAM Museum, you can check out the SPAM Gift Shop and get yourself your very own SPAMmy shirt.

I know that I alone have a SPAM baseball hat, a SPAM sweatshirt, SPAM socks, a SPAM keychain, and even a SPAM costume. Just like me, relatives of employees are not shy to say they know someone who works for Hormel.

Food made with SPAM

In the SPAM Museum, you can find interactive cookbooks that hold dozens of step-by-step SPAM recipes. Through these cookbooks, I have made several SPAM dishes, including SPAM fried rice.

In fact, SPAM can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as there are various flavors.

Interactive SPAM cookbook, photo by Devyn Raver

Aside from fun SPAMmy merch, the SPAM Shop sells different international favorites that are not readily available in U.S. grocery stores. That’s right, there’s more than just one original flavor of SPAM.

Unique international flavors available in the SPAM Shop include Mezclita, Tocino, and Teriyaki. Here you can also find Portuguese Sausage SPAM, which is normally only available in Hawaii.

The many international flavors of SPAM, photo by Devyn Raver

In Austin, it is not uncommon to find SPAM dishes on the menu. One of my favorite local diners, Kenny’s Oak Grill, has a yummy Eggs George A, a dish that has two poached eggs and SPAM on an English muffin.

Additionally, upon request, you can substitute any meat with SPAM.

Kenny's Oak Grill Menu, photo by Devyn Raver

Even common fast-food restaurants like Arby’s and Burger King sell SPAM in Austin! You can find a list of restaurants that create SPAM dishes on SPAM’s website. Austin is not ashamed of its SPAMmy roots and supports the canned meat with pride.

If you want to walk off those calories, Sweet Reads, located across from the SPAM Museum, is another hidden gem in Austin. Sweet Reads is not like other bookstores. Inside the store, you can find an array of sweet treats and work from local authors and artisans.

The outside entrance of Sweet Reads in Austin MN across from the SPAM Museum, photo by Devyn Raver

Next time you find yourself wandering the Midwest, stop in Austin, Minnesota, and get a taste of its history.

Thanks, Devyn, for sharing your experience at the SPAM Museum!

SPAM FAQs

SPAM® is one of those polarizing foods that people love to love or love to hate.

It’s the cilantro of canned meats.

Love it or hate it, SPAM raises questions. We’ll try to answer, because everyone should have a little SPAM knowledge.

What does SPAM stand for?

Nobody knows!
The name came about when Kenneth Daigneau, brother of Hormel Foods Vice President, Ralph Daigneau, won a New Year’s Eve contest to name the luncheon meat. Besides the $100 prize, Ken won the notoriety of naming what would become one of the most popular food products in the world.

There’s speculation that it means SPiced hAM or was an acronym for Shoulder of Pork And Ham. Another rumor claims it stands for Specially Processed American Meat.

But Ken’s the only one who really knows.

What is SPAM made of?

This may surprise you, but a can of SPAM contains only six ingredients:

  • Pork with ham
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Potato starch
  • Sodium nitrite

How many varieties of SPAM are there?

There are currently fourteen varieties, including SPAM Lite and SPAM Less Sodium.

Hormel first produced SPAM in 1937, which proved to be good timing for both the company and U.S. soldiers.

Over 150 million pounds of the preserved pork product were shipped to the front, which is how it landed in Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines.

WWII Display at the SPAM Museum in Austin Minnesota

According to spam.com:

“By the end of the war, SPAM® products were adopted into local culture, with Fried SPAM® Classic and rice becoming a popular meal. The unique flavor quickly found its way into other Hawaiian cuisine, from SPAM® Fried Wontons to SPAM® Musubi, and SPAM® products became a fixture for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Today you’ll find SPAM® dishes served everywhere from convenience stores to restaurants, reflecting a demand that is unmatched by any place in the world.”

What can you make with SPAM?

Pretty much any dish that uses meat can use SPAM.

SPAMburgers are an easy adaptation. So are SPAM Benedicts.

One of the most popular Hawaiian dishes is musubi: slices of SPAM are browned and glazed with a mixture of yuzu miso and teriyaki, then placed on top of rice and wrapped with nori.

You can even get fancy, with SPAM risotto or SPAM grilled cheese with brie and peaches.

Check their website for a whole bunch of recipes.

SPAM Museum Information

Where is the SPAM Museum?

The SPAM Museum is located in Austin, a town in the southern part of the state of Minnesota.

How much does it cost to get into the Spam Museum?

Admission to the SPAM Museum is free.

Does the SPAM Museum offer virtual tours?

Yes! The SPAM Museum offers free live virtual tours. These are by appointment. Visit their website for details.

When is the SPAM Museum open?

Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Can I get free samples?

Yes! You can try free samples of different varieties, including original SPAM.

Parking near the Spam Museum

2 hour, 4 hour, and 12 hour free parking are available in downtown Austin.

For more information visit SPAM’s website at spam.com/museum