Luncheon Meat Vs Spam: What’s The Difference?

Luncheon meat and Spam are both meat products you can find in the canned food aisle. But is there a difference between the two canned types of meat? Let's take a look at the key differences below.

Luncheon meat can be made from poultry, pork, or beef (sometimes mixed), whereas Spam is typically made from chopped pork shoulder and ham. Both canned meats are processed with preservatives such as sodium, nitrates, and animal fat. However, you will find that Spam is typically higher in sodium and less expensive than luncheon meat.

Before you buy luncheon meat or Spam, it's good to know the differences between the two. In this article, we will discuss the differences in detail. In addition, we will answer other frequently asked questions about Spam and luncheon meat, so read on!

collab photo of a luncheon meat and a spam on a one photo, Luncheon Meat Vs Spam: What's The Difference?

What Is The Difference Between Luncheon Meat And Spam?

Both luncheon meat and Spam are convenient meat choices due to being pre-cooked. You can find it either in almost every grocery store or convenience store. Spam and luncheon meat are good choices for people who need a quick protein source to put on their sandwiches or crackers.

However, there are differences between the two. Let's first look at Spam which is notoriously famous in Hawaii.

Spam is made from chopped pork shoulder and mixed with ham. It is then mixed with sodium, nitrates, water, and other preservatives. You will find that Spam is very high in sodium and isn't the healthiest option, but it is inexpensive.

Technically, Spam is a type of luncheon meat since it is a food product that is made from mixed meats and preservatives. Spam is a brand name but uses the same ingredients for every can.

On the other hand, luncheon meat can be from various types of meat mixed together and canned. Luncheon meat can be poultry, pork, beef, or a mixture of all three. In some cases, luncheon meat can be healthier than Spam due to it being lower in sodium and fats.

It's important not to confuse luncheon meat for "lunch meat," as they are different. Lunch meat isn't canned meat and is usually purchased in slices and doesn't always contain preservatives.

For example, if you go to a deli and ask for a pound of sliced turkey breast, it will be considered lunch meat. Whereas, if you go to the canned food aisle and buy canned pork, it would be luncheon meat.

Lastly, there are several different brands of luncheon meat, such as Goya, Armour, and Signature Select. Each brand will have its own meat mixtures, but Spam will always be chopped pork shoulder and ham.

canned food luncheon meat sliced on

Can Luncheon Meat Or Spam Be Eaten Raw?

Since luncheon meat and spam are pre-cooked, they aren't raw. Both are safe to eat right out of the can without the worry of getting sick.

It's common to use luncheon meat or spam in salads, sandwiches, eggs, or simply with cheese and crackers. In Hawaii, it's common to find spam musubi, which is spam and white rice wrapped in a piece of seaweed. Think of this dish as a Hawaiian-style sushi roll, and don't knock it until you try it.

There are other dishes Spam is featured in, such as Spam loco moco. This breakfast dish is grilled Spam and put on top of a bed of white rice with an over-easy egg. You may also find some variations have brown gravy.

If you want to make these dishes at home, you can switch out the Spam for luncheon meat. However, the best place to try it is in Hawaii.

What Does Spam Taste Like?

It's common for people to be turned off by the thought of eating Spam. However, unless you have tried it before, it's hard to say whether or not it's good.

To give you an idea, Spam has a salty but slightly spicy taste. Some people relate Spam to a thick piece of ham or bologna, so if you like either of those, you might like Spam.

What makes people turn a cold shoulder to Spam is its undesirable appearance. When you open a can of Spam, you will be greeted with a big opaque blob of meat.

close up hamburger using spam as burger patty

How Long Does Luncheon Meat And Spam Last?

You will find that Spam and luncheon meat don't have an expiration date but a "best-by" date. This means that as long as they are sealed in their can, they can be eaten safely even after their best-by date.

The best-by date is usually three years or so from the manufacturing date. After the best-by date, you may find that the meat has lost its flavor or freshness. Typically, you should eat Spam within 2-5 years, but always double-check the best-by date as a reference.

For doomsday preppers, luncheon meat and Spam are great choices. They are also good for backpackers who want to have meat but don't want to attract animals to the smell.

With that said, you should still check that the can is in good condition before eating. For example, if the can is punctured or cracked, then it may be better to toss the can.

When you open the can, check for any signs of spoilage, such as foul smells, mold, or discoloration. If you notice any of these signs, play it safe and throw it in the trash.

After opening Spam or luncheon meat, it is best to store it in the refrigerator. It will last 3-4 days before it needs to be thrown out.

Do You Wash Spam?

While it's not necessary, you can wash Spam. Washing it will remove some of the salty taste. However, you will still be consuming quite a bit of sodium when consuming Spam.

When Spam is made, the preservatives like salt are mixed into the meat to keep it from spoiling. So no matter how many times you wash it, the salt will still be present. The name Spam is actually an acronym for "Special Processed American Meat," so yes, the salt is there to stay.

If you want a healthier solution, you better go to a deli and get freshly sliced meat. Choose meats that are low in fat such as chicken breast or turkey breast. Not only are they low in fat and sodium, but they are a great source of protein.

japanese rice sandwich onigirazu luncheon meat

What Canned Meats Are The Healthiest?

If you are looking for a convenient and healthier alternative to Spam or luncheon meat, then look to canned fish. Canned fish has several healthy fats that are good for the heart.

In addition, they are high in protein if you are looking for a quick protein source after a workout. However, canned fish is still processed and may contain preservatives. You should still check the nutrition label for the sodium content, but it is still a better choice than Spam or luncheon meat.

There are several dishes you can make with canned fish in a few minutes. One of the most common is taking a can of tuna, mixing it will mayo, and making a classic tuna sandwich.

However, you can also grab canned salmon, shrimp, crab, sardines, and other fish. You can eat any of these straight out of the can if you are into that kind of thing.

Another healthier canned meat is canned chicken breast. Canned chicken breast is typically lower in sodium and fat and is a good source of protein.

What Are The Unhealthiest Processed Meats?

Luncheon and Spam aren't the only processed meats that should be eaten in moderation. Let's take a look at other processed meats that don't make the healthy list.


While millions love it, bacon is not a healthy meat and should be eaten in moderation. Not only is it processed, but bacon is almost entirely fat.


There is a variety of sausages in the world, such as chorizo, Italian, andouille, kielbasa, and bratwurst. While they are delicious, they are high in sodium and fat, making them a not-so-healthy meat choice.

Hot Dogs

grilled hot dogs mustard ketchup on

Like luncheon meat, hot dogs are a mixture of meat trimmings put into a casing. It's no secret that hot dogs aren't healthy, but who doesn't love a hot dog at a baseball game?

It's not to say you should avoid Spam, luncheon, or any of the meats mentioned above at all costs. However, you should eat them in moderation, as studies of processed meats suggest they can lead to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Final Thoughts

collab photo of a luncheon meat and a spam on a one photo

Overall, there are differences between luncheon meats and Spam, but they are still similar. Both are a combination of meats that are processed and put into a can. Which one you should choose for your meal will depend on your personal preferences.

Mad it to the end? Here are other articles you might find helpful:

Is Turkey Sausage Processed?

Why Does My Turkey Sausage Smell Like Eggs?

Is Kielbasa & Sausage The Same Thing – What Is The Difference?

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