Inside the Factory Where They Make ‘Tulip Pork Luncheon,’ the Danish Spam
Few foods provoke more disdain than Spam. The infamous meat mixture takes years to go bad. And it jiggles when you poke it with a fork. But somebody’s eating it, because Denmark’s Tulip Food Company cranks out more than 130 million tins of canned meat a year.
Photographer Alastair Philip Wiper takes you inside the factory for his latest, humorously dark series. He documented the entire process, from slaughterhouse deliveries to flesh-colored meat oozing from grinders. It’s as gross as it sounds. “It’s disgusting to see most food being produced on such a large scale,” Wiper says. “But with meat, it’s extra disgusting.”
The Tulip Food Company, a subsidiary of Danish Crown, opened its factory in Veijl in 1988. Its largest product is Tulip Pork Luncheon, the Danish equivalent of Spam. The cans sell in more than 100 countries including England, Germany, Japan, and the US. The Tulip Food Company also makes canned meat for other brands including, yup, Spam.
Wiper harbors ill memories of Spam from school lunches, but never tasted Tulip Pork Luncheon Meat. But when VICE Denmark asked him to visit the factory in June, he wasn’t about to say no. “I’m really attracted to this combination of pink fleshy slime mixed with cold industrial metal,” he says.
He drove the two-and-a-half hours from Copenhagen to Vejl. The factory sits in a rural area smattered with slaughterhouses and other food production facilities. The building spans nearly 250,000 square feet, much of it packed with noisy machines and conveyor belts transporting meat to and fro. Strangely, Wiper can’t recall a particularly meaty smell. “It looks like it should be smellier than it is,” he says.
Silos hold the various spices used to season the meat.
A guide proudly escorted Wiper everywhere, letting him photograph the entire meat canning process with his Nikon D810. The factory’s fully automated. First grinders chop and mince the meat. Next, machines add preservatives and seasoning, which vary depending on where the shipment goes—consumers in Asia prefer less salt, while those in Central America like some spice. After it’s mixed, a filling machine stuffs the pâté into cans, which are boiled at 234 degrees for 70 minutes. When it cools, the product is stacked and shipped around the world, good to go unrefrigerated for at least five years.
The whole thing makes for amazingly disturbing imagery. In Wiper’s photos, pink pasty goo cascades down conveyor belts and gushes from shiny metal gushes like vomit. But it’s not as horrifying as it looks. Despite the urban legend, Tulip Pork Luncheon Meat isn’t made up of eyeballs and testicles, but decent trimmings of ham, shoulder, tenderloin and shank. “The final product is basically what goes into a hot dog in Denmark, which isn’t that bad,” Wiper says. Now he only has to muster up the courage to try it.
Continue reading here: