August 5, 2017

"My first job, believe it or not, was canning bacon for the Vietnam War. We would wrap the bacon up in little cans so they could ship it overseas."

"It really was a family company then. Oscar was still there. My father worked at Oscar Mayer. My father-in-law worked here. Two of my brothers. It’s like that with everybody. We were all family."

From an article in Isthmus about the closing of the Oscar Mayer plant in Madison, Wisconsin.
The fate of what will happen to the Oscar Mayer site is still unknown. Buckley hopes another employer takes over the facility.

“I’d love to see another company come in that would give people a living wage and benefits again,” Buckley says. “It was the people who made this place, and any employer would be lucky to have them.”
Here's an article from a couple years ago in Fortune about why Oscar Mayer closed "the site of the 132-year-old meat company's first expansion and, for the past 58 years, its headquarters—not to mention the home of the Wienermobile."
It’s hardly news that yet another old American factory is closing down, particularly one that makes processed meats, which have declined in popularity as millennials look for healthier options....

It is also less-than-shocking that Kraft Heinz, the food giant caused by the merger of Kraft and Heinz earlier this year, is closing yet another plant. This, after all, is what 3G, the Brazilian investor group behind Kraft Heinz — along with Warren Buffett— does, generally to the delight of its investors.

Some 7,800 employees have lost their jobs since 3G bought Heinz in 2012, and the Brazilian firm's ruthless efficiency is now making its way through Kraft via "zero-based budgeting"... ... Kraft, which had owned Oscar Mayer since 1988, began to feel its own financial pressures and installed corporate executives from the head offices in Illinois....

[T]he State of Iowa and city of Davenport are planning to incentivize Kraft Heinz to the tune of approximately $32,000 per worker over the next 15 years to locate the new factory there — despite the fact that there is a net job LOSS, not gain, of more than 800 workers. Is that the best use of public money?...

Some blame the governor, Scott Walker, for announcing that Wisconsin was "open for business," while jobs move elsewhere; others call the process of locating in the highest bidder's home town simply a form of corporate blackmail.

68 comments:

Laslo Spatula said...

Infuse the canned meats with marijuana and get the factory working again.

I am Laslo.

Michael K said...

Is there anything bacon can't do ?

Comanche Voter said...

I guess the boys down in Brazil at 3G didn't hear the Oscar Mayer Wiener song when they were kids.

That said, as long as the American people are in love with $2 tee shirts made in Asia and available at Walmart, ruthless efficiency is the name of the game.

William said...

Canned bacon will never replace Spam.

Humperdink said...

I am 66 years old and I can say I have never taken a bite of Spam. I opened a can once, took a look at the product and threw it in the trash. I know I am spoiled. It looked like sliced and diced roadkill, compressed into a can. Mystery meat.

LYNNDH said...

What, Warren baby is involved with firing workers? If it were the Koch Brothers it would be front page, big type news.

Humperdink said...

HJ Heinz was founded in western Pa. In junior high, our class went on a field trip and toured the factory in Pittsburgh.

Need to blame Trump. Per Wiki: "The Heinz company was founded by and is named for Henry J. Heinz, who was born in the United States to German immigrants. His father was originally from Kallstadt (then in Bavaria, now part of Rhineland-Palatinate). He was distantly related to the Trump family now based in New York."

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Spam is actually quite good (in a pinch when you don't have ham steaks) sliced a little less than 1/2 inch and fried crispy on both sides with eggs over easy for breakfast. Don't be such a snob :-)

Actually, I would love to find canned bacon for those times that I want to saute some chopped up bacon for soups, such as clam chowder or potato leek soup. That would be very handy. It would also be good in a macaroni and cheese casserole.

Ann Althouse said...

"I opened a can once, took a look at the product and threw it in the trash."

You need to get someone else to deal with the can and fry it up for you. If it were cooked nicely and served to you on a plate, you'd probably enjoy it as much as you'd enjoy a hot dog.

Ann Althouse said...

(I wrote my comment before reading Dust Bunny Queen's.)

I don't know if I've ever eaten Spam myself, but I've eaten lots of scrapple.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Althouse: I've eaten lots of scrapple

Yummmmmm....scrapple! It is a Midwest and Southern thing.

chickelit said...

#OscarsSoBlight

Fernandinande said...

I opened a can once, took a look at the product and threw it in the trash.

You're not supposed to look at it, you're supposed to eat it with Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay sauce, garnished with truffle pâté, brandy and a fried egg on top, or baked beans and more spam.

MadisonMan said...

We had Spam (A Hormel product, just to be clear :) ) a lot when I was growing up. Baked, topped with brown sugar and studded with cloves. Not too bad. You'd get one slice for dinner, along with some canned veggies.

MadisonMan said...

Some blame the governor, Scott Walker

Where 'Some' is a group that is completely full of Democrats.

tcrosse said...

Spam, which is made by Hormel in Minnesota, is very popular in Hawaii, of all places.
The Creation Myth is that Hormel had a whole lot of pork shoulder they didn't know what else to do with. The Jersey favorite is Taylor Ham, or Taylor Pork Roll, depending on which exit of the Garden State you call home.

buwaya said...

I bet the whole processed meats=unhealthy is yet another case of fake science, like the food pyramid turned out to be, or the salt scare.

All it needs are a few Trump tweets and the whole industry can be revitalized, as he did re global warming.

Somewhat down on the priority list I suppose.

Full disclosure, among other things, my dad had a small sausage factory (Bilbao style). US food processors have a mighty opportunity should they choose to exploit high technology in the sausage field, already developed and available abroad. There are the wonders of Spanish charcuteria just to start. Paprika is vastly underused here. A proper Spanish pork loin is in a different world.

Even the humble Spam has unexploited possibilities. My wife brought home a vast selection of flavored Spam from Hawaii, unavailable in the US market.

Bay Area Guy said...

My baloney has a first name - it's O-S-C-A-R. (Everybody!) My baloney has a second name - it's M-A-Y-E-R.

Oh, I love to eat it everyday, and if you ask me, I will say........

Humperdink said...

DBQ: "Don't be such a snob :-)"

Guilty as charged.

Years ago, a friend of mine worked in a grocery store. He would tell me at the end of the day, all the lunch meat scraps would be gathered up, ground up, add mayo, and sold in one (1) pound packages as "sandwich spread". (See: the sausage analogy)

buwaya said...

Spam is also very popular in the Philippines, with several local producers. It is second in popularity to corned beef, which is, with a fry-up of last nights rice, a breakfast staple.

Both are permanent fixtures in Hawaiian/Filipino tastes due to WWII rations escaping into the civilian economy.

JML said...

Many years ago we were flying a mission in the Caribbean and our airplane broke in Jamestown. We ended up staying in a tired but neat marina hotel in Port Royal. The next morning we all meet for breakfast, and the waiter comes out and takes our order - omelets, eggs and sausage, pancakes and bacon and so forth. He disappears; we then see him get in his car and drive away. He returns 30 minutes later with a shopping bag and after more waiting he brings us or orders. The pilot's omelet: Spam, tomato and scrambled eggs. The co's pancake order: Spam, tomato and scrambled eggs, etc. The tomato was fresh and juicy and it was a delicious combination with the Spam and egg. The new morning - we go through the same drill. On the third day we all ordered Spam, tomato and eggs. To this day to is one of my favorite meals, especially when you can find a fresh beefsteak tomato.

tcrosse said...

The Spam advantage is that it is meat which keeps in hot climates and primitive conditions, at least until you open it.

Fernandinande said...

Spam from Hawaii, unavailable in the US market.

I wish those Hawaiian judges were unavailable in the US market.

Ann Althouse said...

"Yummmmmm....scrapple! It is a Midwest and Southern thing."

Really? I'd have said it's a Pennsylvania thing.

Ann Althouse said...

Wikipedia on scrapple:

"Scrapple, also known by the Pennsylvania Dutch name Pannhaas or "pan rabbit", is traditionally a mush of pork scraps and trimmings combined with cornmeal and wheat flour, often buckwheat flour, and spices. The mush is formed into a semi-solid congealed loaf, and slices of the scrapple are then pan-fried before serving. Scraps of meat left over from butchering, not used or sold elsewhere, were made into scrapple to avoid waste. Scrapple is best known as an American food of the Mid-Atlantic states (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia). Scrapple and panhaas are commonly considered an ethnic food of the Pennsylvania Dutch, including the Mennonites and Amish. Scrapple is found in supermarkets throughout the region in both fresh and frozen refrigerated cases."

Those are my people (on my father's side), the Pennsylvania Dutch.

John said...

Almost 2000 people work at the oscar mayer plant in Newberry South Carolina

John Henry

Michael Brand said...

Yummmmmm....scrapple! It is a Midwest and Southern thing."

Ann beat me to it. Scrapple is definitely a Pennsylvania Dutch creation. If you want it traditional (and not factory processed) go to some of the mom and pop Amish General stores in South Central Pennsylvania.

tcrosse said...

The British used to make the worst sausage in the world - bangers. Maybe they still do. When they joined the EU they had to retool because the stuff fell far short of EU standards. And God only knows what sort of stuff the EU allows in sausage.

David said...

"Yummmmmm....scrapple! It is a Midwest and Southern thing."

Philly and very broad environs, actually, I tell you redundantly. It varies in quality, as does Philly.

Spam, on the other hand, is wonderfully consistent. Never eat it cold, but fried it is delicious as certain sins.

The Pennsylvania Dutch are Germans of course. Hail the Palatine Migration.

David said...

The English make a good fatty breakfast banger. Just ordering it used to be good for a giggle.

Scott said...

There are people who think that a company's primary responsibility is to create and maintain employment. They are the same people who vote for politicians who, over time, incrementally create the layers of taxes and regulations that make it impossible to do this.

MountainMan said...

McDonald's serves Spam for breakfast at its locations in Hawaii.

tcrosse said...

Black Pudding is very nice fried up for breakfast, until you find out what's in it.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I "guess" I stand corrected about the origin of scrapple.

My Grandmother's family who are from Paoli Indiana and Orange County Indiana, since 1752, and who still live there.... served scrapple quite frequently. They are/were also Quakers. Prior to Indiana, they were from Maryland and ultimately Scotland.

MIL who is from Arkansas for generations also has scrapple as a breakfast meal.

So, I assumed that you could eat scrapple outside of Pennsylvania and without being Pennsylvania Deitsch :-D

john said...

Lat summer we had breakfast at a restaurant in Blowing Rock, NC. On the menu wa "Liver Mush". The waiter answered our question with "It's just like scrapple". We ordered pancakes and bacon. I renamed the town "Blowing Chunks" after that.

traditionalguy said...

IIR We were too high class to buy Spam. But we loved the Swift's Prem Luncheon Meat. It was no different, except for the price.

virgil xenophon said...

When I was stationed in the UK in the AF in the early 70s we had an English lady who maintained a small cooking "shack" just outside our briefing hut as we walked on the way to the flightline. Her special was a fried spam, egg, cheese and bacon with mayo on white bread. Eat one of those and you'd taste it all day. Felt heavy as lead in your stomach, lol.

Bob said...


Spam is good. Very tender and mild-flavored, not at all like a hot dog. Among other methods of preparation, it's excellent gently heated in a fry pan with cheese.

Yes, it's a processed meat, and I disagree with Buwaya that processed meat concerns are "fake science", but I do think concerns are often overblown. As a devoted low-carber, I think Spam makes for an excellent earthquake preparedness food supply. Much better than those "protein bars".

I'm not surprised Spam is popular in Hawaii and the Philippines. My former boss is married to a Japanese woman, and he told me Spam is a delicacy in Japan.

There's a restaurant on Fairfax in LA called "Animal". One of the most expensive items on the menu is "foie gras loco moco", apparently inspired by Hawaiian cuisine. It includes a chunk of ground beef, a slice of spam, and seared foie gras, topped with a lightly fried quail egg, all sitting on a bed of rice flavored with Sriracha sauce. Excellent, if expensive.

See https://mylastbite.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/animal11/

John said...

Last month my wife and I, wanting to get away for a few days, flew to Charlotte NC then drove a loop through Charleston, Greenville and back to Charlotte.

Driving to Greenville, we saw a sign that said "visit historic Newberry". We are suckers for this kind of thing, so we did. Very nice little town, looks like it got stuck in the 50's but in a good way, not like Lilek's Thursday towns.

It was a pleasant detour but not much more.

The week before, over in the Isthmus, we had been discussing the Oscar Mayer plant closing so when I saw adopt a highway signs from OM I had to look it up. That's why I know there are almost 2m employees working there.

We also saw a Komatsu plant that makes loaders (200 employees) and, didn't see it but when looking up OM found that Caterpillar has a plant with 200 employees.

The things you learn just driving aimlessly around our great country. (Like Ann does. And I like the pics and trip reports, Ann)

I suspect that many people think the OM closing is more jobs moving overseas. Yet many of them seem to have moved to SC a dozen or more years ago and the remainder are moving to Davenport.

Median home listing in Madison $233m

Median home listing in Newberry $99m

Median home listing in Davenport $136m

I suspect that all living costs are lower in SC and IA than Madison. Since employees can live better for less, they will accept less money.

This plus most likely other lower operating costs means that OM can charge less for bologna and still make the same profit. Perhaps more since charging less increases volume.

Win-Win-Win for employees and employer and Bologna customer.

John Henry

Gospace said...

Crispy fried Spam does actually taste pretty good for breakfast. Had it a few times as a kid. And camping. Spam parmesan is a quick and easy to make camping meal. But outside of camping, haven't had Spam since becoming an adult.

John said...

Spartanburg, near Greenville is also home to a lot of manufacturing. Perhaps the most prominent is BMW which employs 9,000 or so, turned out 36,000 cars in June, exporting about a third, has 240 US suppliers, buys specialty steel for Chassis from Nucor Steel, a NC company and so on.

Think of how many jobs that plant is responsible for. Probably 4-5 to 1 so here we have a single plant supporting 45-54m people. Not too shabby.

There is lots of other, non-automotive, manufacturing in SC too.

Does it make a difference to anyone that the BMW plant is owned by a German rather than an American company? I see no difference economically.

We are down to 2 major "US" automakers now: Ford and GM. Obama propped them up in 2009. He should have let them die too.

Last American car I had was a 1982 Chevy Malibu company car, back when I last held a job. NEVER again. What a piece of shit that was. Since then I've had Mitsubishis, Nissans, a Subaru and now an Elantra. None of them have been even well broken in until they got to 100,000 miles or so.

John Henry

John Henry

buwaya said...

It seems we can buy quite a few houses in Madison, a cul-de-sac perhaps, and maybe a considerable fraction of Newberry.

Michael K said...

" 2 major "US" automakers now: Ford and GM. Obama propped them up in 2009. He should have let them die too. "

Ford would have survived pretty nicely. They recovered from their adventure in letting accountants run the company and make their ,living building trucks.

GM would have reorganized and the BK would have let them renegotiate their union contracts which is why Obama took them over and stiffed the bond holders.

Nissen just had another union vote last week and the union lost 4 to 1.

It hasn't affected their $35 million country club in Michigan.

mockturtle said...

John Henry, I've had a couple of great Hondas but I'm also very pleased with my 2015 one-ton Silverado pickup. The Japanese forced quality improvements on the US auto industry and it's better than it used to be.
.
As for German automakers:
My father had a Mercedes and it was in the shop half the time.
A close friend had a BMW and it was in the shop at least half the time.
My daughter had a VW for a while and it was junk.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Mock +1. I can't say enough good things about my GMT800 chassis Chevrolet Suburbans. Too good, really. I can't imagine what I would get in a Cadillac that would be any better.

Viejo Loco said...

DBQ - Amazon has Tactical Bacon in a can for sale. Buy it through the Professors portal, of course.
As for Scrapple, when I went to school in Lancaster, PA in the old days, we referred to it as "Crapple".

John said...

Blogger Bad Lieutenant said...

I can't imagine what I would get in a Cadillac that would be any better.

The only difference between a Chevy and Cadillac is the trim package. They are basically the same cars.

I once sat next to a Texan on a flight to DFW. He was a contractor and had some top of the line GM pickup (I think. Might have been a Ford) Probably a $60-70m set of wheels.

He loved the service. Why, the engine blew up twice and had to be replaced. It was not a problem because everything was covered under warrantee and they even gave him a loaner.

I was polite but I really wanted to say "What the bloody Hell is so great about that?" If you pay that much for a car, the engine should not blow up ever. He LOVED his GM truck. Me, it was just another data point reinforcing my feelings about never buying another Ford, GM or FIAT (Formerly Chrysler) ever again.

I'll stick with other American cars made by Nissan, Hyundai, Toyota or the like.

One of the reasons Toyota is so well made is because of what is known as the Toyota Production System (TPS). Also called Lean Manufacturing. Many companies, in all industries as well as many non-industrial settings, are adapting lean manufacturing. And that is a good thing. It is what I do professionally, though I often call it lazy manufacturing. http://changeover.com/lazy.html

Anyone care to guess who invented lean manufacturing and the TPS?


John Henry

tcrosse said...



W. Edwards Deming, who was revered in Japan

Michael K said...

I had a Ford truck that my son now has and it has well over 100k miles. Ford cars are not as reliable but all American cars are better than they were 50 years ago.

I drive Honda cars but I would buy another Ford truck in a minute. If my son decides he doesn't want the truck anymore, I will take it back. It's good for 200k.

About 25 years ago, I bought a new BMW and had nothing but trouble with it. Blew the engine when the timing belt broke before it was due to be changed.

Bad Lieutenant said...


John said...
Blogger Bad Lieutenant said...

I can't imagine what I would get in a Cadillac that would be any better.

The only difference between a Chevy and Cadillac is the trim package. They are basically the same cars.

I know that. What I'm saying is that even the base trucks drive and otherwise behave impeccably. Excellent NVH control. Superb ride. Totally comfortable seats. Just damned well designed and built. I've heard the next gen isn't as good as mine. Some say the previous gen is better than mine. I don't know what the latest Suburbans are like, but when I looked at one on the lot, it didn't make me want to upgrade. (I will say the new Escalade is sexy enough that I would buy it on looks alone.)

As for the blown engines, maybe he bought the new model year and got the usual new model year bugs. I would bet that everybody has that. Also, if the tranny or motor dies in my 03 Burb, I can buy and install a used or refurbished for under $1,500. On new model cars I could spend that on the engine computer or the windshield wipers. I've had trannys die in Nissans and Volvos too, with far fewer miles. Honda has a rep for bad transmissions on their V6s. We do have a 98 Camry with I think about 270k now that is just bulletproof. But it lacks in creature comforts sufficiently (and has been abused by others) that one would consider a switch.

All cars are just light years better than they used to be. Why, on a bet, I might even buy an English car. Not Chinese though, that crash test video I saw will last me the rest of my life.

Bad Lieutenant said...

And F BMW. Bought a used 318i for $1,700, engine burnt on the way home from the guy's house.

George Grady said...

Lat summer we had breakfast at a restaurant in Blowing Rock, NC. On the menu wa "Liver Mush". The waiter answered our question with "It's just like scrapple". We ordered pancakes and bacon. I renamed the town "Blowing Chunks" after that.

Livermush is not quite the same thing as scrapple, since it's made with the pork liver rather than scraps. It's quite tasty, too. Both Shelby, NC, and Marion, NC, have an annual Livermush Festival.

tcrosse said...

My Dad was a Metallurgist. Whenever anyone complained that Cars These Days were junk, he'd ask when was the last time they had a valve and ring job.

John said...

What's a valve and rig job? Sounds like something one might do on a drunken night in Las Vegas.

Seriously, I am old enough to know what they are and I take your point. Fords and GM have improved immensely. But so have Nissan etc al.

I still can't imagine myself buying one. Or a fiat formerly Chrysler

John Henry

JML said...

I'm looking forward to a dinner of fried Spam, potato and corn cooked in my Pleasure Way RV built on a Ford E350 Chassis. No need to tow our Subaru, Toyota or BMW. It is small enough to drive anywhere with ease, but it has a small kitchen and king size bed. Life is good!

mockturtle said...

I'm looking forward to a dinner of fried Spam, potato and corn cooked in my Pleasure Way RV built on a Ford E350 Chassis. No need to tow our Subaru, Toyota or BMW. It is small enough to drive anywhere with ease, but it has a small kitchen and king size bed. Life is good!

Yep. My Bengal Tiger TX 4X4 RV is built on a one-ton Chevy Silverado and I don't need a 'toad' [towed] either. Pleasure Ways are nice, too.

chickelit said...

Oscars triggers so many memories for me. My late uncle and godfather who worked there; friends of my dad who worked there; the "Takeover" hoax in the '60's -- they maliciously published a story about a man being ground in the sausage machine in order to hurt the company (and capitalism); the malodorous pink "perfume" the company used to mask odors.

My memories are too long and my stories too short.

chickelit said...

Many of you are so out of touch with Oscars that you associate them with Spam.

My name goes here. said...

"We are down to 2 major "US" automakers now: Ford and GM. Obama propped them up in 2009. He should have let them die too. "

I thought Ford saw the crunch coming and years before like in 2005 mortgaged everything on their own without government help to restructure all of their debt, and they escaped the 2008 recession without government help.

Please correct me if I am wrong.

thanks.

John said...

Blogger My name goes here. said...

I thought Ford saw the crunch coming and years before like in 2005 mortgaged everything on their own without government help to restructure all of their debt, and they escaped the 2008 recession without government help.

Nope, you are right. Sloppy writing on my part.

We are down to 2 US automakers, GM and Ford.

When I said we should have let "them" go out of business I had GM and Fiat (then Chrysler).

Sorry for the unclarity.

John Henry

richard mcenroe said...

Spam is the Protein Simulation of VICTORY!

John said...

Blogger tcrosse said...

W. Edwards Deming, who was revered in Japan

I would change the "was" to "is".

No, not Deming though he was immensely helpful in improving quality, he did not do much for driving waste out of the manufacturing process and that is the essence of lean manufacturing. It was not his focus.

Henry Ford was Deming before Deming was Deming. As early as 1908 Henry Ford was a relentless fanatic about quality in manufacturing. Quality defined as absence of variation. Not that he was an expert but he did realize it was critical to success and, as essentially sole owner of Ford, he had the power to make it a top priority.

Henry Ford was the inventor of the Toyota Production System. Taichii Ohno usually gets the credit but is the first one to tell us that everything in TPS Ford was doing from 1910 on. Lots of evolution, improvment and technology over the years but all of the basic concepts can be found in Ford's 1923 book "My Life and Work".

It is really, really, really, sad that this book was out of print in English for 70 years or so until I got it republished. It has never been out of print in Japanese and every engineer at Toyota in Japan has a copy on their desk.

It is even sadder that we invented the TPS here and Ford for all his trying was not very successful in getting other companies to implement. Except Toyota. Now everyone thinks it is some wonderful Japanese innovation.

Even Henry Ford lost his drive for lean after about 1930.

Sad.

2 of Ford's 3 books on manufacturing are here:

http://www.changeover.com/fordlifeandwork.pdf (Best book on manufacturing ever)

http://www.changeover.com/fordmovingforward.pdf (His 3rd book, especially interesting for the chapter on quality)

I have scanned and proofed his second book, "Today and Tomorrow" but still need to format it usably. Ask me in a couple of weeks if you would like a copy.

John Henry

AllenS said...

I went to work with one of those black lunch boxes with the thermos on top. Not sure how many Spam sandwiches I ate, but it was a bunch.

mockturtle said...

Maybe I just haven't lived but I've never eaten Spam. It doesn't look good.

JAORE said...

"The Heinz company was founded by and is named for Henry J. Heinz, who was born in the United States to German immigrants. His father was originally from Kallstadt (then in Bavaria, now part of Rhineland-Palatinate). He was distantly related to the Trump family now based in New York."

Somewhat LESS distantly related to Teresa Heinz Kerry [Thank God] never first lady of the US.

jaed said...

Actually, I would love to find canned bacon for those times that I want to saute some chopped up bacon

Dice it, then put the bits in a freezer bag and freeze it. Take out what you need. (You may need to whack the bag on the counter to get the bacon bits to separate, but they have little water so they don't tend to freeze together.)

Bad Lieutenant said...

I have scanned and proofed his second book, "Today and Tomorrow" but still need to format it usably. Ask me in a couple of weeks if you would like a copy.

John Henry




Would love to see it. Have pulled down the other two. TYSM for this work. Passing it around at my office, which is the opposite of manufacturing but which is studying lean for innovation.

John said...

Bad Lt,

Glad you are enjoying the books. If you ever want to talk about lean (manufacturing, office, hospital etc) even if just a shoulder to lean on, drop me a note at john@changeover.com

I never charge for kibitzing.

John Henry