Canned Meat Trio

The Canned Meat Taste-Off


Because. And let me say, I'm surprised you asked.

Potted Meats Potted Meats

The less-snarky answer is that Ryan and i were walking by the canned meat section of the supermarket and I couldn't help but notice a whole host of products I've never eaten and never planned to eat.

It seemed rather discriminatory, and so i threw a few in the basket.

That said, here is an abridged transcript of the canned meat taste off among Corned Beef, Treet and Spam.

Present at the event were two direct participants (tasters) and four observers (for moral support).


  • James (JP)
  • Ryan (RR)


  • Lindsey (LC)
  • Arden (AB)
  • Sara (SD)
  • Becky (BM)

Notice the women are the ones who kept their distance.

Corned Beef

Chosen as first because "it sounded the most like actual food." This "food" was added late to the lineup, suggested by Patti because she remembers it from her childhood.

Arden: Do you like corned beef, James? Like, regular corned beef?

Corned Beef Key

James: Yeah. I don't love it. But I'm Irish, so I have to like it. It's a law. This one opens with a key.

Ryan: Percy's Place in Westoprt has good corned beef hash. I want to see what this looks like.

James: (Turning key) Oh... it's got a lot of fat on it.

Lindsey: I think we're going to be sick for you.

James: We may join you. Oh. The sound of opening this can is... exquisite.

<Some discussion ensued blaming Patti for the inclusion of this "food">

Ryan: It doesn't look that bad, actually.

James: I can't smell it yet. That's disturbing. I do not like the looks of this. It looks like cat food.

<There is a failed attempt to record the sound of the corned beef escaping the can>

Corned Beef Uncanned

James: Ooooh. Now I can smell it.

Ryan: Ugh - yeah! [laughs]

James: Oh, that's not good. Look at all that fat. This is turning my stomach. This is actually food!?

Sara: This place had better not smell.

James: It's going right into the trash after this. Not in the office. Cutting it... right down the middle. That's just... not... friendly-looking.

Arden: Are you guys going to eat all of it? [Incredulous]

James and Ryan: No. [pause] Oh, god no.

[Slices are distributed to our plates]

James: Don't eat it yet. You have to smell it first. You have to experience it!

Ryan: It smells like tuna.

James: Tuna from Hell, maybe. OK, I'm going to describe how it looks. It looks like cat food.

Ryan: It does look like cat food. It smells like tuna. [emphatic] Can I eat it now?

James; It lacks structural integrity. Strange that it smells like tuna; there's no fish in it. Yeah. Go ahead. Try it.

[eating sounds]

James: Tastes better than it smells. Kinda fishy.

Corned Beef Sliced

Ryan: It's not that bad. [pause] There's definitely a film in my mouth, though.

[General agreement that there is a lot of fat in it. Half of the calories are from fat. General agreement that it is salty like corned beef, tastes reasonably like corned beef. But would be better as an ingredient in a food rather than as an actual food itself. Cooked, with potatoes would be an improvement.]

Arden: How much did it cost?

Ryan: They're all about two bucks each.

James: Still it looks like an insult to food everywhere.

Ryan: It's not that bad. So far, Corned Beef is ahead of everything. [Ryan later noted that he was not a big fan of the film on his tongue]


James: Alright, I'm going to go with "Treet" next.

Lindsey: [alarmed] "Treat?"

Treet in a Can

James: Yes. T-R-E-E-T, "Treet."

Lindsey: Oh, dear God.

[James explains Julie's observation that it's not actually a treat, and the name reminds you that it's not a treat, because it is "treat" misspelled.]

James: This one's got a pull top. Uh. This is not easy to open -- this "Treet." Oh, I'm not doing it right. It haz a method. There we go. Hm. Smells more appetizing than the corned beef.

Ryan: Oooh! Smells good. It looks like the ham you eat on Easter. Except sliced up and put in there.

James: Except, not ham.

Ryan: Yeah, and not ham. Mechanically separated chicken. And pork.

[All together, tentatively] Pork? Ham?

Ryan: Whoa. Look at that. Nice... liquid...

James: Yeah, there's some kind of jelly coming out of this thing...

Ryan: [indiscernible] ...oozing. I don't know if it's supposed to have a glaze or not. [quietly] but it does.

James: Treat unbound! Okay. Let's slice it up. Actually, it smells smoked. it looks processed on the inside. Like bologna.

Treet Uncanned

Ryan: It doesn't look that bad. Yeah. With little bits of fat.

James: I'm going to bet this one tastes like bologna.

All together: [for some reason] It's Treet.

James: It's more than slightly processed. It's actually extremely processed.

[Ryan has quiet side conversation with Sara about her keeping her distance.]

[Slices are distributed]

Ryan: It's very dense. It smells really good!

Sara: Smells what??

Ryan: It smells really good!

Sara: Ugh [sound of utter disgust].

Arden: Better than regular food?


James: Better than [laughter] better than actual food?

Ryan: It smells sweet. Like, brown-sugary.

James: Alright. Ready? Okay. [eating sounds] Yeah. Smells like brown sugar. And then... it's definitely got a bologna-ish flavor to it--a little bit gritty.

Ryan: It's gritty bologna with a little brown sugar on top.

James: Clove? Slightly clovey flavor? but mostly sugary. I could actually eat a sandwich of this.

Ryan: Yeah.

James: I'd say I could almost look forward to this.

Ryan: I'm going to say I could eat a full serving. I'm not going to go further than that, though.

Sara: What's the shelf life?

Ryan: I don't know. Fifty years?

James: I don't know. There's a reason I'm serving it on the fallout shelter sign.

Ryan: I'll be honest though. I don't think we're going to get the full appeal of this until we taste whatever that stuff was on the side. [Referring to the glistening jelly from the can]

James: You -- you wanna try that?

Ryan: Yeh.

[Becky enters the room, prompting a brief recap]

Treet Slice

James: We haven't tried the Spam yet, but the Corned Beef is pretty bad.

Ryan: It leaves a nice film in your mouth.

James: Although it tastes better than it smells.

[Brief discussion on serving size]

James: Now, see, we're going for the "right out of the can" approach rather than heating it up because A) It takes too long to heat it up, and I don't think we're that committed. And B) it think it's more "honest" right out of the can. Don't you think?

Ryan: [Having tasted the jelly] It's like a sugared glaze that's on it. It's got "Virginia ham" [flavoring].

[Becky describes how Spam gets saltier when fried]

James: [The Treet] has more structural integrity than the corned beef. It's less disgusting-looking except that it has a shiny quality that's a little unsettling. It's got chicken in it.

Sara: Quote-unquote-chicken.


James: It's mechanically separated chicken. What's more disturbing? If it says "Mechanically Separated Chicken" on the label, or if it just said "Chickens" with an "s?" What do you think would be worse to put on a label?

Sara/Becky: [Agreeing with each other] They both don't sound very good.

James: "Chicken" is definitely better than "chickens." Actually [laughing] "mechanically separated chickens" is the worst of both worlds.

[Ryan verifies that the label actually does say "mechanically separated chicken" ]

Arden: Separated from the body or from like...

[Sara and James briefly explain mechanical separation of meat]

Ryan: You make your chicken nuggets, and breasts and you take what's left over, bite marks and all, and make... that.

James: I have to say that my initial feeling disturbed gastronomically at the suggestion to add corned beef to this is so far has been justified. the Treet was definitely better than the corned beef.

[repeat discussion of how to improve the corned beef by cooking]

James: Treet has got these little white chunks. I don't know what they are. And I don't really wanna know.

Ryan: Bone marrow. It's pretty uniform, though.


James; Alright, here's the Spam. Now Spam [opening can] looks the most like actual ham. Which I guess makes sense. This one is beef. And that one's... [trails off]

Ryan: Yeah... it still kinda looks like... well, it's a lot lighter. It's more pink.

[Brief discussion of nitrates/nitrites and the color of preserved meat]

James: It would be gray without the salt and the nitrites.

[Suddenly, Ryan notices an aftertaste]

Ryan: The Treet has an aftertaste. I can't tell what it is though.

James: [pause] Oh, you're right.

Ryan: What is that?

James: I don't know. But it's not meat.

Arden: It's going to stay with you always.


James; It's going to haunt our nightmares. Okay, I'm going to pull the Spam out of the can now. It's softer than it looks.

[brief discussion about whether or not it would have been better to do this just before the end of the workday]

James: I can tell you this: I don't want this to be lunch. I'm going to have some cherries and carrots after this.

Ryan: I have a can of tuna that says "this is not lunch."

Spam Uncanned

James: Alright; there's the Spam out of the can.

Ryan: This one is not as slimy. A strong smell of ham.

James: I'm a little surprised, because I expected this to be the spiciest smelling. But it's actually somewhere between the corned beef and the Treet. Unfortunately. That's not a good sign. I would prefer that it would... Oh. It's got the most resistance to being cut.

Ryan: With Spam you get six servings in a can. [All of them are six servings to a can]

James: Darn [having trouble cutting] You can come back for seconds if you want. I don't think either of us are going to be members of the "Clean Plate Club" today. Why did we do this?


Ryan: [sniffing it] It's like... ham... but, I don't know.

James: That's a good description. "Ham, but I don't know."

Ryan: It smells like canned ham.

James: It has a less-spiced smell. It doesn't smell good.

Ryan: I'm going for it.

[eating. chewing.]

James: I do not like Spam. This is the first time I've ever eaten it.

Ryan: It's the one that tastes the most like ham.

James; Really? Yeah, that's true. The Treet tastes like ham-flavored bologna.

Sliced Spam

Ryan: This tastes like crappy boiled ham.

James: That's exactly what it tastes like. Crappy boiled ham.

Ryan: I could not eat a serving of this.

James: I'd have to be really hungry.

Ryan: Yeah. Spam is absolutely gross. It might be worse than the corned beef.

Arden: So... Treet is number one?

Ryan: Treet wins.

James: Treet definitely wins. Treet is the easy winner, I think. the texture of the Spam might be better though.

Ryan: Yeah... but the taste...

James: But that might actually be a disadvantage. It reminds you that it is meat. but not quite meat. As if it's in the uncanny valley of foods. Not meat, but yet not-not-meat. Whereas Treet you can ignore that it is a meat and imagine it is a "bologna."

Ryan: It almost... seems like fish... when you cut it. I could not eat a whole serving of this. Treet was the only one I could eat a whole serving of.

[Speculation about how you could force down a serving of Spam. Without ruining other food.]

James: I think we're done here. Treet wins.

Ryan: Not even a contest.

James: Hands down, not because it's the most like meat, but because it's the least like meat. Treat, you are the winner of this dubious contest.

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