If you’re planning a trip to Austin, Minnesota, TripAdvisor lists 21 Things to Do during your stay. There’s the red-and-white statue of Buffy the Cow, which recent reviews have described as a “huge cow,” as a “BIG cow,” and as a “very large cow statue.” A visitor to the city’s new YMCA wrote that “being able to look out the windows” was “great to experience.” But, hands down, Austin’s top attraction is the Spam Museum and Visitor Center.
Spam, everyone’s favorite Meat of Many Uses, has its origins in the southern Minnesota city. According to Eater, George A. Hormel started his “namesake slaughterhouse and meatpacking facility” in Austin in 1891, and within 10 years, George A. Hormel & Co. was off and running.
George Hormel’s son Jay had taken over the business by the time they were producing a canned pork precursor to Spam, and Spam itself debuted in 1937. “That recipe, using pork shoulder (once considered an undesirable byproduct of hog butchery), water, salt, sugar, and sodium nitrate (for coloring) remained unchanged until 2009, when Hormel began adding potato starch to sop up the infamous gelatin “layer” that naturally forms when meat is cooked,” Eater wrote.
Visitors to the Spam museum can learn about the Hormel family, dig into Spam’s high sodium history and, of course, read a few references to that now-famous Monty Python sketch about “Spam, spam, spam, egg and spam.” There’s also a gift shop where you can pick up a tube of Spam lip balm, a “canjo,” a musical instrument made out of an empty Spam can, or a Spam-branded ice scraper. (It is Minnesota, after all.)
And, if TripAdvisor is any indication, the Museum is pretty great: as of this writing, it has 465 “Excellent” reviews, and only a single “Terrible” one. (That person, who visited in 2018, said they liked the old Spam Museum better. Bloody hipsters.) The Spam Museum is open seven days a week, and admission is free. Best of all, it’s just a six-minute walk from the YMCA. We hear that their windows are a big draw too.
At some point in this week’s virtual Twitch quiz, we ask about Spam…the, uh, good kind! Take a look: