Spam (Encyclopedia of Small Business)
Spam is a slang term that describes unsolicited commercial advertisements sent by e-mail over the Internet. Spam, which can be used as a noun or as a verb, is also known as junk e-mail or unsolicited bulk e-mail. According to Heather Newman in the Detroit Free Press, the term comes from a skit by the Monty Python comedy troupe, in which a group of Vikings chants "spam, spam, spam" to drown out all other conversation. It was adopted by early Internet users to describe annoying, unsolicited e-mail advertisements that crowd out legitimate communication. "Spam is an overwhelming fact of life for nearly every e-mail user," Newman wrote. "Some Internet postmasters say that more than half the traffic their computers handle is spam."
THE COSTS OF SPAM
"The financial and psychological costs of spam are eroding the Internet's goodwill," Karen Rodriguez wrote in the Phoenix Business Journal. Spam causes problems for both e-mail users and the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that offer access to the Internet to customers for a fee. Most e-mail users resent receiving spam messages because they fill up electronic mailboxes and are time-consuming to sort through. In addition, a large proportion of spam messages contain material that could be considered offensive or fraudulent. A survey of spam content conducted on behalf of Representative Gary Miller of California, co-sponsor of proposed legislation to ban spam, found that 30 percent consisted of pornographic materials, another 30 percent consisted of get-rich-quick schemes, and the remainder included a variety of questionable business proposals and gambling opportunities.
Companies that send out bulk e-mail defend the practice on several grounds. For example, they say that some small businesses cannot afford other forms of marketing. Sending bulk e-mail helps these businesses reach potential customers and compete with larger firms. Proponents of e-mail marketing also claim that their advertisements are a constitutionally protected form of free speech. "Spammers try to justify their actions by claiming that companies have the right to take advantage of the online market and that people have no right to filter their mail," Maria O'Daniel wrote in Computimes.
But opponents of spam argue that Internet users end up paying to receive unwanted advertisements. By sending bulk e-mail to thousands of recipients, spammers create an increase in the load placed on ISP mail servers. O'Daniel explained that ISPs must purchase bandwidth in order to connect their servers to the Internet. They buy bandwidth based on expected usage by their paying customers, and the cost accounts for a large percentage of their operating budgets. Spam ties up bandwidth and reduces processing speed, which causes an increase in costs for ISPs and a decrease in performance for their customers. So while it may cost a spammer only a few dollars to create and send an advertisement via e-mail, it may cost an ISP thousands of dollars to accommodate the spam. These costs are usually passed on to the ISP's customers, most of whom did not want to receive the spam in the first place.
Complaints from ISPs and Internet users have prompted several states to pass laws regulating spam. But many people claim that, due to the interstate reach of the Internet, federal action is also required. The U.S. government has considered various proposals to reduce spam. One such proposal would allow ISPs to sue in civil court and claim damages as high as $50 per message or $25,000 per day against companies that send unsolicited commercial e-mail over their servers. Other bills would require spammers to include a "reply to sender" option to allow recipients to opt out of receiving future e-mails, or would prohibit spammers from sending e-mail to people who register their addresses on a "global opt out" list compiled by the Federal Communications Commission.
Some experts claim that such laws might facilitate claims by large Internet companies like America Online, which can afford to take legal action against spammers, but would do little to help smaller, local ISPs. "Although state anti-spam legislation is designed to encourage ISPs to sue every time spammers clog e-mail servers and harass ISP customers, the providers have filed few if any lawsuits because the cost of litigation is too high and such cases are hard to prosecute," Rodriguez noted. "Spam is easy to create, and its purveyors are hard to find."
WAYS TO REDUCE SPAM
Most reputable ISPs have "acceptable use" policies that prohibit users from sending bulk commercial e-mail over their systems. Since spam is against the rules, some people think that spammers operate by breaking into an ISP's mail system and sending e-mail to everyone on the system. In reality, spammers obtain e-mail addresses from a wide range of legal sources, including business cards, newspaper articles, Web pages, member lists, customer lists, and message postings. They even collect jokes, chain letters, and other frequently forwarded e-mail messages that have hundreds of addresses on the top.
The first rule of reducing spam, according to Newman, is to limit the ways in which your e-mail address is exposed to the public. One possible method is to create a free e-mail account to use in situations where you must make your address public, such as posting messages to newsgroups. It is also a good policy to hide the addresses of recipients if you forward e-mail messages to large groups of people. Newman emphasized that you should never respond to spam or select an option that allows you to opt out of receiving future messages, because this proves that your e-mail is a working address and makes it more valuable to spammers.
Since sending spam is against the rules of most ISPs, it may be helpful to notify the originating ISP that someone is using their service to send spam. The best way to do this involves sending a copy of the offending message to the ISP's system administrator. "The administrators are the ones who are best able to deal with it," O'Daniel noted. "They will be grateful to hear from youo one wants to be associated with spammers." Most ISPs will respond by terminating the spammer's account. This strategy is not always effective, however, because spammers are often difficult to locate. The worst offenders will "spoof" or create a false address for their messages, change identity frequently, and send spam from a number of different addresses.
It may also be helpful to inform your own ISP when you receive spam, so that the system administrator can filter out future messages from that address. Many e-mail programs also feature filtering capabilities. Finally, if you are bombarded with e-mail from a company with which you have done business, or you find out that such a company has sold your e-mail address to a spammer, you can boycott the company's products or send an e-mail of protest to the company president.
Hinde, Stephen. "Smurfing, Swamping, Spamming, Spoofing, Squatting, Slandering, Surfing, Scamming, and Other Mischiefs of the World Wide Web." Computers and Security. May 2000.
Hoover, Kent. "Spamming: Marketing Opportunity for Small Business or Costly Annoyance?" Pittsburgh Business Times. November 12, 1999.
Newman, Heather. "Do a Little Work to Give Spammer Unhappy Returns." Detroit Free Press. February 28, 2001.
Newman, Heather. "How to Can Net Spamhe Real Junk Mail." Detroit Free Press. February 21, 2001.
O'Daniel, Maria. "How to Handle E-Mail Spamming." Computimes. April 3, 2000.
Rodriguez, Karen. "Federal Lawmakers Propose Bill to End Spamming." Phoenix Business Journal. May 12, 2000.
SEE ALSO: Electronic Mail
Spam (How Products are Made)
Spam is a brand name for a canned meat product containing ham, pork, salt, flavorings, and preservatives that are mixed and cooked under vacuum pressure. There are other brands of similar canned pork meat products, but Spamade by Hormel Foods Corporations the original and the best-selling of the brands.
The standard Spam can is brick-shaped and holds 7 oz (198 g) of meat. A 2-oz (57-g) serving contains 170 calories, provides 7 g of protein, 140 calories of fat, and has 0.75 g of sodium. It contains small amounts of cholesterol and iron. Americans eat approximately 3.8 cans per second. Two American plants produce 44,000 cans of Spam every hour. Hawaii consumes the most Spam in the worldbout four million cans yearly (it is particularly popular in sushi).
Spam is an important protein source and economical as well. Unopened cans require no refrigeration and Spam has an indefinite shelf life because it is heat-sealed within the tin. It can, therefore, be shipped all over the world without spoiling. Thus, it is an important food source in many places where fresh meat is difficult to obtain or expensive (such as Hawaii and Guam). Spam has become a kitschy favorite with Spam t-shirts and cookbooks selling quite well. Spam has also made it onto the worldwide web with several websites dedicated to the product. The term spam has also come to mean unwanted junk e-mails received on personal computers.
Spam was first released onto the American market in 1937. Jay Hormel, the son of a successful Minnesota meat-packing house owner, was an energetic young man with big plans for his father's company. Hormel brought out canned ham in 1926. When his product was imitated, Hormel added spices to make it distinct. In the early 1930s, many companies were producing canned pork in large containers. Hormel's competition included lips, snouts, even ears in their meats but Hormel refused to use these refuse parts. Instead, he used the shoulder of the pig (a cut of meat rarely used because of its time-consuming removal from the bone). Hormel's meat was superior and more expensive than the competition's, but once opened it was indistinguishable. Hormel sought a way to seperate his product from the rest, and he decided to try two things: reduce the size of the can so it was family-sized and design a distinctive label.
Hormel's first experimental 12-oz (340-g) cans of this pork luncheon meat turned out to be 8 oz (227 g) of meat and 4 oz (113 g) of useless juice. As the heat cooked the meat in the sealed can, cells broke down and released an excessive amount of juice. Hormel tried many things to reduce the juice. Ultimately he discovering that it was not enough to put it in a can that was vacuum sealed, but the meat must also be mixed in a vacuum in order to minimize the juice released while cooking.
The new luncheon meat was not available for a while, awaiting a marketable name and an iconic label. After much dispute, the name Spam seemed perfect. Most believe it to be a combination of the words spiced and ham, but the original product contained no ham. (Hormel later added ham to the mixture because so many thought it was already in the product.) Upon release the meat was not an instant seller, but Spam was touted for its value and convenience.
By 1941, 40 million cans of Spam had been sold. During World War II, Spam was sent overseas to feed American G.I.s. Hormel supplied Allied troops with 15 million cans of Spam per week throughout the war. World leadersncluding Eisenhower, Margaret Thatcher, and Nikita Khrushchevredited Spam for its effectiveness. After the war, Hormel actively advertised the product, getting big names to sing its praises. Plants overseas also began producing Spam. By 1959, Hormel had manufactured its billionth can. By 1962, the 12-oz (340-g) can was joined by a 7-oz (198-g) can for single people and small families. Other innovations included Spam with cheese chunks and smoke-flavored product (1972) and Spam-Lite (1992). A major re-design of the label occurred in 1997, and both the old and new version entered the Smithsonian.
The primary ingredient in Spam is chopped pork shoulder meat mixed with ham. About 90% of Spam is pork from a pig's shoulders. The remaining 10% (or so) comes from the pig's buttock and thigh, better known as ham. This ratio varies according to ham and pork prices. The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not permit any nonmeat fillers in lunchmeat, nor does it allow pig snouts, lips, or ears. The second ingredient is salt, added for flavor and for use as a preservative. Also, a small amount of water is used to bind all ingredients together. Sugar is also included for flavor. Finally, sodium nitrate is added to prevent botulism and acts as a preservative as well. It is the sodium nitrite that gives Spam its bright pink colorithout it, Spam would discolor and become brown.
The Manufacturing Process
- Pigs are no longer butchered by the Hormel Company, so meat is purchased from dealers and brought into the plant. Pork shoulders and ham are brought into the plant and cut apart. The pork shoulders are put into a powerful hydraulic press that literally squeezes the meat off the bone. The deboned meat is put into a large gondola or basket. Ham, however, must be cut away from the bone by hand. The meat-cutters remove and sort the meat from the shanks in the ham trim lines. The whitest, fattiest pieces are put into a large gondola marked "white," while meatier pieces are hand-sorted into one marked "red." The gondolas remain in a refrigerated area until they are needed.
- Next, the gondolas are wheeled from the cold storage area and onto the main floor. The meat is transferred to a crane-like machine and then dumped into a large metal trough equipped with a drill bit. There, the drill bit thoroughly grinds the red and white pieces dumped in the trough. The batch is weighed (usually about 8,000 lb [3,628 kg] at this point) and passed under a metal detector (to catch a stray knife or mixing component). A small sample of Spam is analyzed to ensure it has the right combination of pork to ham and white to red pieces.
- The ground meat is then distributed by the gondolas into several vacuum mixers. When these mixers are in the open position, they look like giant gas grills, but they are equipped with a refrigerated ammonia outer core that brings the meat temperature down to below freezing (32°F [0°C]). Then, the other ingredients in Spamalt, sugar, water, and sodium nitritere added. The mixer lid is closed, creating an airtight seal, and the batch is mixed. The reason the vacuum is induced, the meat chilled, and the salt added is to reduce the amount of juice released by the meat when it is cooked. If too much liquid is released during cooking, the can would contain a large amount of gelatin.
- While the Spam is being mixed, machines elsewhere are pushing empty, upside-down Spam cans off storage pallets one layer at a time. The plain silver cans are pushed onto a conveyor belt and sent toward the filler.
- Nearly 1,000 lb (454 kg) of Spam is manually unloaded from the first mixer, dumped into receivers, and fed through pipes. The mixture moves through the pipes until it reaches the cone-shaped can fillers. As the cans travel undeneath the fillers, a device picks each one up and deposits the raw, ground Spam into the can (from the
- The can is sealed at a closing machine. They are then stamped with an identifying code so that the product can be traced back to the manufacturer.
- Now, the closed cans head to the six-story-tall hydrostatic cooker. Spam is cooked in the can by very hot water within the cooker. The cans approach to cooker in a line, an arm swings out and pushes 24 cans onto a shelf. The shelf moves upward, and an arm swings out an pushes another group of cans onto a shelf. In two hours, 66,000 thousand cans will travel up and down 11 chambers in this huge cooker as they are heated, sterilized, washed, and cooled.
- As the cans leave the hydrostatic cooker, they are now cool and ready for labeling. The labels sit at the end of the cooker in long rolls. An automatic labeler attaches a polypropelene film label on each can, and the labeler cuts the label to the correct length.
- The cans are now ready for boxing. Twenty-four cans are fed onto flat pieces of cardboard, and a box is formed around the cans using the cardboard. The boxes are moved, and when a palette is filled with boxes, the entire pallet is shrink-wrapped. The cans are stamped with a date and other identifying numbers. A huge robot crane, driven by computer, transfers the pallet to a rack of shelving in the building. When the pallets get to the loading dock, then they are hoisted into the shelves by machines.
- The Spam cans cannot be shipped out for 10 days. One of every 1,000 cans produced must undergo extensive testing to make certain the meat was properly cooked. If there are no problems, the cans may be sold.
Hormel would likely agree that Spam begins with quality pork and ham. Hornel no longer supplies its own meat for Spam, but the company chooses the meat carefully. Meat-cutters who cut the meat from the ham carefully perform their tasks and throw the pieces into the appropriate gondola. Also, the huge hydrostatic cooker has an alarm that trips if the computer detects there is any problem with the batch. The workers must fix that problem within three minutes. If they don't, the entire batch's viability is in question.
Portions of each batch are examined to make sure the batch has the right amount of pork shoulder to ham. The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not permit any Spam cans to leave the processing plant for 10 days. One out of every 1,000 cans be subjected to a 100°F (38°C) test to see if the can bulges or shows any other signs of improper cooking. The bacteria content is also tested. Finally, taste tests are routine at Hormel Foods Corporation. Every Friday all executives involved in Spam production meet to visually inspect (and sometimes taste) several different batches of Spam produced during the week.
Since Spam was first released it has undergone many transformations. From plain Spam to Turkey Spam to Spam-Lite. People are coming up with endless recipes that call for Spam, and Hormel is trying to incorporate every consumer's need into their product development. Spam with less sodium is now available. The launch of Hormel's website dedicated to Spain now provides consumers with a catalog devoted to Spam and Spam labeled products.
Where to Learn More
Wyman, Carol. Spam: A Biography. San Diego: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1999.
"Spam: An Authorized Biography." A Manual for Public Relations. Hormel Foods, 2000.
i>Nancy E.V. Bryk