Hail, Mighty SPAM!

(Page 2 of 3)

These days, Hormel boasts $4.1 billion in sales and the blue-and-yellow SPAM logo is now is trademarked in more than 100 countries. It's canned in Britain, Denmark, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, where it's considered a delicacy to be served with a fine wine.

"One reason SPAM is popular in developing countries is a reason it was popular in America years ago — it doesn't require refrigeration," says Radford. "But even in other countries, it finds a place."

Inside the SPAM Museum, fans will find plenty to absorb. A 430-foot conveyor belt rattles around the ceiling, carrying about 850 cans of SPAM. Visitors can take a SPAM exam or can their own SPAM (not the real stuff). There's also a radio station — KSPAM — and a video screen that shows classic Monty Python skits slamming SPAM.

A SPAM-o-Meter tallies the cans of SPAM produced. Hormel expects to turn out its 6 billionth sometime between June 29 and July 3.

"It's inevitable at this point," says Radford. "But it's still a big deal."

With the world on the cusp of such a milestone, it's time to reflect upon the noble place SPAM occupies in U.S. history. Its rise parallels the geopolitical trajectory of the United States itself.

Khrushchev Contemplates Life Without SPAM

SPAM came to prominence around the time we were developing the atomic bomb. Since then, some people have stopped worrying and learned to love both.

Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and President Dwight D. Eisenhower each expounded on SPAM's effectiveness in beating the Nazis.

"Without SPAM, we wouldn't have been able to feed our army," Khrushchev said in his autobiography.

If war is hell and an army travels on its stomach, SPAM helped make it that way, Eisenhower suggested.

"I ate my share of SPAM, along with millions of other soldiers," he said in a 1966 letter to Hormel's then-chief executive, H.H. Corey.

"I'll even confess to a few unkind remarks about it uttered during the strain of battle, you understand," he continued. "But as former Commander-in-Chief, I believe I can still officially forgive you your only sin — sending so much of it!"