Canned ham used to be a staple in many households, with its long shelf life and convenience making it a popular choice for quick and easy meals. But in recent years, it seems to have become an endangered species.
What happened to canned ham? Why is it so hard to find these days? In this article, we’ll explore the history of canned ham, its popularity over the years, and why it may have fallen out of favor with consumers.
So sit back, relax, and let’s dive into the world of canned ham.
What Happened To Canned Ham?
Canned ham has been around for decades, with its popularity peaking in the mid-20th century. It was a convenient option for families who wanted a quick and easy meal without having to worry about the meat spoiling. Canned ham was also a popular choice for camping trips and other outdoor activities, as it could be easily transported and stored.
However, in recent years, canned ham seems to have fallen out of favor with consumers. It’s become increasingly difficult to find on grocery store shelves, and many people have never even heard of it.
One reason for this decline in popularity could be the rise of fresh and organic food options. As people become more health-conscious and interested in where their food comes from, they may be less likely to choose canned meats that are often processed and contain preservatives.
Another factor could be the taste and texture of canned ham. While it may have a long shelf life, it can start to lose its quality after a few years. Some people find the flavor and texture to be unappealing compared to fresh or even frozen ham.
The Origins Of Canned Ham: A Brief History
Canned ham was first introduced in America in 1926 by the George A. Hormel & Company. The company called it “Hormel Flavor-Sealed Ham.” The inventor of canned ham was none other than George Hormel, who also launched the company behind many beloved food brands such as Dinty Moore beef stew, canned chili, and Spam.
While canned food has its roots in the Napoleonic wars and appeared in American stores as early as the 1800s, it became a true staple of America’s diet in the 1940s. Brands such as Chef Boyardee helped the Second World War effort by producing field rations. Chef Boyardee factories operated 24 hours a day during this time – their signature dish was beef ravioli in sauce which was described as being as “truly Italian as the Tower of Pisa.”
Country ham has been around almost as long as America itself. By the 17th century, most American farmers raised pigs, and the long shelf life of pork and salt made ham a staple in most kitchens nationwide. Country ham became a more distinct type of ham in 1926 when George A. Hormel & Company pioneered canned ham. Today, country ham refers to the way our ham is preserved rather than a specific location.
The preserving of pork leg as ham has a long history, with traces of production of cured ham among the Etruscan civilization known in the 6th and 5th century BC. The modern word “ham” is derived from Old English and began to refer to the cut of pork derived from the hind leg of a pig around the 15th century.
Canned Ham’s Popularity Through The Years
Despite its recent decline in popularity, canned ham was once a staple in millions of households. SPAM, the most well-known brand of canned ham, was invented in 1937 and quickly became a household name. Its solid form, salty taste, and meat-like texture made it a popular option for families during the mid-20th century.
Other brands of canned ham also gained popularity during this time. Prem, for example, was another brand of canned pork and beef luncheon meat that was shipped to soldiers during World War II and remained popular in the decades afterwards. Danish canned ham, also known as DAK, was similar to SPAM but with a less salty taste and a more tender texture when heated. Hormel smoked canned ham was known for its high-quality taste, although its rubber-like texture was not always preferred by consumers.
Canned ham’s popularity can also be attributed to its long shelf life. A can of pantry-stable ham, if unopened, can last for around two years according to the USDA. Even if it doesn’t go bad, canned ham can start to lose its quality of flavor and texture after three years. Canned hams that are meant to be kept in the refrigerator will keep for a pretty long time as well, though not nearly as long as their shelf-stable counterparts.
The Convenience Of Canned Ham: Why It Was A Household Staple
Despite its decline in popularity, canned ham was once a household staple for many families. One of the main reasons for this was its convenience. Canned ham could be stored for long periods of time without the need for refrigeration, making it an ideal option for families who lived in rural areas or didn’t have access to a refrigerator.
Additionally, canned ham was fully cooked and ready to eat straight out of the can, which made it a quick and easy meal option. This was especially important during times of war or economic hardship when fresh meat was scarce and families had to rely on canned goods to survive.
Canned ham was also a popular choice for camping and outdoor activities. Its portability and long shelf life made it an ideal option for those who needed to pack light and didn’t have access to refrigeration.
While canned ham may not be as popular as it once was, its convenience factor cannot be denied. It provided families with a quick and easy meal option that could be stored for long periods of time without spoiling. And while fresh and organic options may be more popular now, canned ham will always hold a special place in the history of American cuisine.
The Rise Of Health Consciousness And The Decline Of Canned Ham
In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards healthier eating habits and a greater awareness of the impact of processed foods on our health. As a result, many consumers are now seeking out fresh and organic food options, and are more conscious of the ingredients in the foods they eat.
This shift in consumer behavior has had a significant impact on the canned ham industry. Canned ham is often processed and contains preservatives, which can be seen as a negative by health-conscious consumers. Additionally, canned ham has higher sodium and fat content compared to fresh ham, which can be a concern for those watching their diet.
Dongwon Food & Beverage (Dongwon F&B) recognized this trend and responded by introducing a low-sodium canned ham in 2003. However, as many of its rivals followed suit, Dongwon F&B had to go one step further and reduce the fat content of their new product, Richam Double Light, by 25 percent. With people spending more time at home due to social distancing measures, Dongwon F&B saw an opportunity to attract more customers who are diet conscious.
Despite these efforts, canned ham sales have continued to decline. This is partly due to the fact that many people now prefer fresh or frozen meat options over canned meats. Additionally, as tastes and preferences change over time, some people may simply find the flavor and texture of canned ham to be unappealing.
The Impact Of Alternative Protein Sources On Canned Ham Sales
Another possible reason for the decline in popularity of canned ham is the increasing availability and popularity of alternative protein sources. Meat alternatives, such as plant-based meat products, have been gaining traction in recent years due to their lower environmental impact and potential health benefits. These products are designed to mimic the taste, texture, and functionality of meat products while being predominantly plant-based.
According to a report by Lusk, between 2018 and 2020, the share of novel plant-based proteins in total ground meat sales doubled from about 4 to 8 percent. However, between 2020 and 2022, no significant demand shift toward plant-based meat patties has occurred. This trend may continue unless prices fall and/or new options become available. While it’s unclear how much of an impact this has had on canned ham sales specifically, it’s possible that consumers are opting for these alternative protein sources instead of canned meats.
Additionally, concerns about the nutritional attributes of canned ham have been raised due to its high content of fat, sodium, and preservatives. As consumers become more health-conscious and interested in where their food comes from, they may be less likely to choose canned meats that are often processed and contain preservatives.
The Future Of Canned Ham: Will It Make A Comeback?
Despite its decline in popularity, there are still some signs that canned ham may make a comeback in the future. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to stock up on non-perishable goods, including canned meats like ham. In fact, sales of canned meat have increased significantly since the start of the pandemic.
Additionally, canned ham has found a new audience in recent years with the rise of multicultural cuisine. Spam, a brand of canned meat similar to ham, has become popular in Hawaiian and Asian cuisine. Chefs have been experimenting with different ways to incorporate Spam into their dishes, and this could potentially lead to a renewed interest in canned ham as well.
However, for canned ham to truly make a comeback, manufacturers will need to address some of the concerns that consumers have with the product. This could include improving the taste and texture of the meat, as well as finding ways to make it more appealing to health-conscious consumers.