Is there really such a thing as black market Spam? Numerous Spam heists in Hawaii are keeping police busy chasing down the thieves of the tasty Hormel treat, and forcing retailers to lock up the canned lunch meat in plastic, to detour further thefts. Why is Spam the target of so many thefts in Hawaii and who is buying it on the black market?
When most people think of the black market, they think of human body parts, exotic animals, prescription drugs, weapons, pirated media, and electronics being sold on the dark web or in shadowy alleyways. Now you can add Spam to the list. Spam has become such a valuable commodity that the mystery meat in a can is now encased in plastic at grocery stores, to prevent it from being stolen.
Honolulu police spoke to the New York Post regarding the Spam capers. It appears that the pork mystery meat treat means “quick cash” in the Spam black market. The thieves go into the store in pairs and walk out with a case of the product that is a mere $2.50 a can.
The thefts are not just sneaking a few cans into a bag. They have resulted in assaults!
Early in October, one store reported that a pair of thieves took off with a case of Spam, and a security guard was punched. Less than a week later, a teenage girl working without an accomplice, assaulted two employees at the same store. She had stolen a chocolate bar and “Spam musubi – a sushi-like Spam food,” and assaulted one employee who tried to prevent her from leaving with the stolen goods. The 17-year-old later returned and assaulted a second employee.
Spam has also inspired some of the most “brazen” robberies, as one Spam thief ran out of a Pearl City supermarket with eight cases of the mystery meat.
According to Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, who explained that a law change has suddenly made Spam a good target for thieves. Previously, it was a felony for a theft of $350, now it is at $750. The popularity, size and black market price has made Spam an easy target.
It is one thing to brazenly steal cases of Spam, but how do the thieves get rid of their lunch meat stash? Yamaki is not sure, but has heard rumors.
“We hear a lot of rumor where it’s going. We’ve heard they work through middlemen. We’ve heard that they’re selling it from the back of their cars. We’ve heard all kinds of rumors. Whether they’re true or not, I’m not sure.”
Seven million cans of Spam are eaten in Hawaii every year, for a state that has a population of 1.429 million people, according to the 2016 census. This means that nearly seven cans of Spam are consumed per person in Hawaii each year.
Currently, Spam has been celebrating its 80-year anniversary. According to Time, who spoke directly to the Spam Museum in Austin, Minnesota, explains that contrary to the rumors that Spam is an acronym for “Scientifically Processed Animal Matter,” the name “Spam” actually came from “a portmanteau word for ‘spiced ham.'”
Officially launched on July 5, 1937, there had been a naming contest, and an unidentified person won $100 and bragging rights, which was worth a lot in Depression era United States.
It quickly became a favorite treat in the Pacific, particularly Hawaii, the Philippines and Guam, where so many American soldiers were stationed. In fact, World War II is when Spam really took off, as “America sent out over 100 million cans to the Pacific.” Then, in the 50s, it became a convenient luncheon meat, and symbolic of the quick and easy meal preparation that became popular in American households during the era when women began to work outside of the household.
Still wildly popular in the Pacific, particularly Hawaii, Spam has enjoyed a resurgence in American dining, amongst Millennials, who will pair up the canned lunch meat with organic veggies for a modern take on a retro meal.
[Featured Image by David McNew/Getty Images]