The ingredients label for a can of Hormel's SPAM with bacon — that non-perishable staple of survival kits the world over — lists "pork," "ham" and "bacon." Separately. In that order.
So what the heck is the difference between the three?
According to Wired's Patrick Di Justo, when it comes to naming pig parts, it's all about specifics. The USDA's extensive glossary of food terminology designates that ham is "the hind leg of a pig that's been preserved, colored, and flavored through a process known as curing"; pork is simply "meat from hogs" (Di Justo says Hormel's ham typically hails from a hog's shoulder region); and bacon is "the cured belly of a swine carcass."
"Large-scale curing is usually done by injecting a brine solution into the belly of a butchered swine. The brine contains sodium erythorbate, an antioxidant that's chemically similar to vitamin C," explains Di Justo. "But it's not here to prevent scurvy; instead it boosts the conversion of the sodium nitrite in bacon into nitric oxide, which minimizes the production of carcinogens when the pork belly is fried up."
So there you have it. Pork ≠ ham ≠ bacon. Though I suppose pork could technically count as either ham or bacon, but not vice versa... like a square v. rectangle situation. In any case, it's something to talk about with your fellow survivors while you're all cracking open cans of SPAM and riding out the apocalypse.
Read more about the magic ingredients behind SPAM's plutonium-grade shelf life over on WIRED.