Thursday, August 25, 2011

The SPAM Museum - Austin, MN

While we were getting service done on the motorhome in Forest City, IA, we decided to drive about 60 miles north to Austin, MN to the home of Hormel Foods and the SPAM Museum. We had visited the museum right after it opened in 2002 and recalled it was a fun stop. The museum is free and there is plenty of parking, even for motorhomes, which is great, since it is right off of I-90.

Appropriately, Orinda was met by this statue of a farmer driving hogs to market as we entered.

SPAM is perhaps the best known of Hormel's many products and you have to wonder what in the world would be in such a museum!

The museum is actually very well done and lots of fun to stroll through. The 16,500 sq. ft. is full of interesting displays on the the company and the history of the country as well. The first stop is this internet lunch counter were you can check out web information on SPAM and get recipes.

George Hormel founded the company way back in 1891, so the firm is now 110 years old. Some of the interesting history that we learned was how technological advances impacted the meat packing business, including refrigerated railcars, canned meat, such as canned hams and SPAM, and advertising. The fact that Hormel was an innovator in each of these areas contributed greatly to their success.

We really enjoyed the advertising history. Hormel used radio and TV from the start to publicize its products. SPAM was one of the real success storied and during WWII, was heavily used to feed the troops and other allied countries. Interestingly, this stemmed from Jay Hormel's experiences in WWI when the food sent to the troops in the trenches was almost inedible.

Hormel has had a somewhat troubled labor past, not unlike many food processing firms that experience significant cost competition. Still, I am not sure Orinda is ready to join the processing floor crew, although she is dressed for the occasion!

SPAM continues to be very popular and sales have climbed during the recession. There are now many varieties of SPAM which is really just canned ham product. We got to taste different varieties and found it to be very good. We also learned that the most SPAM per person is consumed in Hawaii.

This was a fun picture showing the famous SPAM can. However, on closer inspection:

we found that the large picture is really made up of thousands of smaller photos of Hormel and SPAM employees and processes. Pretty cool!

The SPAM Museum is a fun stop for folks of all ages. You can also get those unique gifts such as the ever popular SPAM flip-flops, SPAM t-shirts, SPAM you name it!


squawmama said...

When we were in Guam they ate it like crazy ~ thought it must be the spam capital. I bought a Spam Cookbook there! lol
Have fun & Travel safe

did you go to Clearlake about 20 miles from Forest City to the Surf Ballroom? It is where Buddy Holly & the Big Bopper last played. You can also go out to the site of the plane crash.

Rick and Orinda said...

Yes, my wife is a Buddy Holly fan so we did do the Clear Lake tour -- saw the Surf Ballroom where he played the last time. An interesting place and town.

Chuck and Anneke's RV travels said...

Nice tour of the Spam museum. We went there during GNR 2010. We still have not eaten the spam we picked up.

We also went to the ballroom and the crash site.