A Visit to the SPAM Museum
Austin, MN
October 19, 2003

Where else but America are you going to find a museum devoted to luncheon meat? In Austin, MN, Hormel Foods (the makers of SPAM, Dinty Moore, and other meat products) have taken advantage of the cult status of SPAM by setting up a museum that tells the history, stories, and many uses of the slippery pink loaves, and why some people love them so much! It's all very tongue-in-cheek, but I think ranks as one of the most offbeat tourist attractions I've ever seen!

(By the way, as explained on the SPAM web site, the product made by Hormel Foods is always capitalized, whereas junk email spam is always lowercase)

What else would you expect for the SPAM web site, but the obvious:

SPAM Museum
Welcome to Austin, Minnesota - SPAM Town, USA!
If you can't figure out where to park, you must be eating some of that Treet stuff...
The SPAM Museum - in all its glory!

(It's actually a building that used to house a K-Mart - they went out, then Hormel purchased it and put offices at one end, and the SPAM Museum at the other.)

Entering the lobby, you are greeted by SPAMMY, the official SPAM mascot...
...then as you turn around, you see the Wall of SPAM high above you - 3,390 cans of SPAM surrounding a world globe, signifying SPAM's worldwide popularity!

(Yes, this is what I was told)

Just past the lobby is the SPAM CyberDiner, where you can send your friends SPAM-based greeting cards (The one place where you can send SPAM and get away with it!)
The George A. Hormel Theater, next to the CyberDiner, plays the feature "SPAM: A Love Story" every 15 minutes, which tells all about the worldwide obsession with SPAM.

Notice the pig face in the doors!

This was one of George Hormel's first meat-packing wagons.
Displays like these show the history of SPAM, and the Hormel Foods company, from its birth in the 1830's to the present day.
A display along one wall shows the various print advertisements that Hormel Foods used to advertise SPAM through the years.
At radio station KSPaM, you can relive the early years of SPAM as you listen to old radio and TV advertisements for the product!
In the SPAM Production Center portion of the museum, you learn what it takes to produce thousands of cans of SPAM each day.
This "SPAM Steps" display answers the age-old question: Just what is SPAM made of, anyway? According to this display, this is how SPAM is produced:

  • Fresh cut pork shoulder and ham meat is placed in large bins.
  • A grinder cuts and blends the pork shoulder and ham meat.
  • A precise blend of spices is mixed into the meat.
  • Empty cans are machine filled: The meat is dispensed from above as the can is raised. This avoids trapping air inside the can.
  • A lid is affixed to the can.
  • SPAM is cooked in the can as it passes vertically and horizontally through a six-story oven for about 2 1/2 hours.
  • SPAM cans now travel by conveyor to an area where polypropylene labels are applied.
  • Cans are boxed and shrink-wrapped, ready for shipment to wholesalers and retailers - ultimately to consumers like you.
At the "Hands-on SPAM" display, you can can your own SPAM (what, you mean you didn't ever fantasize about doing this?)

After hitting the green button on the left, take a can, put a "SPAM loaf" (actually a bean-bag SPAM) in it, put a lid on it, put it in the "oven" to bake, label it, then put the completed product on the right and hit the red button to end. The readout shows you how many cans were made on the Austin assembly line during that time - which is always much more than what you can do. (My best time for one can was 11 seconds)

If you want to really get into the act, you can put on a uniform similar to what Hormel Foods employees wear on the SPAM production line...
All the while, thousands of cans of SPAM move on a conveyor belt above your head, while the SPAM Counter shows how many total cans of SPAM have been produced by Hormel since Day One.
This frozen food section-style display shows off all of Hormel Food's meat products, including SPAM, Dinty Moore, Stagg's Chili, canned hams, and much more - you can easily get hungry just going in here...
In the "SPAM Exam", you can participate in an interactive quiz show hosted by Al Franken to test your SPAM knowledge (you do remember everything you learned in the museum, right?)
The last part of the museum pays homage to Monty Python and their skits that brought SPAM so much attention. The display is set up like the cafe' from the Viking SPAM skit, and you can pick the various Python SPAM sketches and play them.
Your tour of the SPAM museum concludes at the SPAM Gift Shop, where you can purchase all type of SPAMorabilia to forever remember your trip to the potted meat capital of the world!


Last modified: June 17, 2007