Unwrapping the Story Behind Cure 81 Ham

Cure 81. It’s an unusual name that adorns the packaging of a popular brand of ham sold across America. But why is it actually called Cure 81? What’s the meaning behind this random combination of numbers and letters?

In this article, we’ll unravel the fascinating history of how Cure 81 got its memorable moniker. Understanding the origins of this iconic ham brand tells a larger story about innovation in the meat industry.

Cure 81 Ham First Debuted in the 1960s

Cure 81 ham was introduced by Hormel Foods Corporation in 1962. This new ham product was intended to be extremely high-quality and consistently delicious, appealing to discerning ham lovers.

To create their premier ham, Hormel did extensive consumer research. They surveyed over 1,000 people to find out preferences for flavor, texture, appearance and other attributes. This input directly shaped how Cure 81 was formulated and produced.

The name Cure 81 was chosen to reflect the forward-thinking innovation behind the product.

The 81 Stood for the Year 1981

So where did the name Cure 81 come from in the first place? According to the Hormel company history book The Hormel Legacy:

“Cure 81® ham meant ‘The Ham of the Future.’ In 1962, the year 1981 seemed far away.”

When Cure 81 ham was being developed in the early 1960s, the year 1981 must have sounded incredibly futuristic. By branding their new ham Cure 81, Hormel was implying this was the ham of the future—ahead of its time in quality and technology.

The number 81 was a nod to the dramatic changes predicted to come over the next two decades. It created an aura of cutting-edge advancement about the product.

The Name Aligned with Space Age Sensibilities

Calling the ham Cure 81 fit perfectly with the Space Age era when it launched In the 1960s, space exploration was capturing the public’s imagination. The future seemed limitless.

Hormel leveraged this fascination by presenting their Cure 81 as the ham America would enjoy in the jet-pack flying, moon colony robot-filled world of 1981. It was marketed as the pinnacle of modern food engineering.

Of course, the actual year 1981 didn’t end up looking much like the sci-fi predictions. But at the time, 81 conveyed an aspirational glimpse of innovations to come.

A Trademark Process Ensured Consistent Quality

So why was Cure 81 considered so revolutionary for its time? Hormel developed a patented curing process to give the ham an ideal texture and flavor every time

This proprietary 11-day process involved carefully controlled steps of salting, smoking, and aging under precise conditions. It delivered a taste and moisture content consumers raved about compared to other hams.

The name Cure 81 referenced Hormel’s trademark curing method as much as the year 1981. It communicated calibrating each ham to exact specifications.

A Curemaster Personally Inspected Every Ham

To enforce their stringent quality standards, Hormel introduced another first—the Curemaster. The Curemaster was an executive-level position overseeing operations at the Cure 81 plant.

Each ham was individually stamped with the Curemaster’s seal certifying it met expectations. Having a Curemaster inspect every ham ensured compliance and built trust in the brand.

The name Cure 81 thereby indicated oversight by the Curemaster according to Hormel’s patented process.

Cure 81 Hams Caught On Quickly With Shoppers

The calculated gamble of branding this new ham Cure 81 paid off. Shoppers embraced the futuristic-sounding product and associated it with positive attributes like scientific advancement and modern convenience.

By 1964, just two years after its introduction, Cure 81 was the top-selling branded ham in America. The Cure 81 name is still recognized today as a mark of a premium quality ham.

So in the end, the unusual name Cure 81 ham did exactly what Hormel intended—it signified a next-generation ham made to meet the demands of a new era in food production. More than 50 years later, it still has a nice ring to it!

The Meaning of Cure 81 Has Evolved Over Time

While Cure 81 originally denoted a tech-forward ham for the space age, the meaning behind the name has understandably shifted over the decades.

Today, Cure 81 conjures up nostalgia for mid-century modern consumerism and the retro-futuristic optimism of that period. For younger generations, it’s a charming vintage brand name rather than a cutting-edge badge.

But the name still carries associations of skilled American manufacturing and products made to high specifications that consumers can trust.

Cure 81 Remains One of Hormel’s Flagship Brands

Even if it sounds like a quaint holdover from another era, Cure 81 continues to be one of Hormel’s most prominent and profitable ham lines.

It remains a staple product at major retailers across the nation. Cure 81 ham is now made at multiple Hormel plants but still following strict quality control procedures.

The Curemaster role also lives on, continuing to literally stamp his mark of approval on every ham shipped out. The half-century legacy of Cure 81 is clearly still going strong.

Why the Name Cure 81 Still Resonates with Shoppers

Cure 81 may not actually be “the ham of the future” as once hyped, but it does hold appeal for shoppers who have come to expect a few key attributes from it:

  • Trusted Reputation – It’s a long-established brand with proven staying power.

  • Reliable Taste – The curing process results in consistent mild smoky flavor.

  • Knowledgeable Oversight – The Curemaster’s involvement reassures customers.

  • Nostalgia Factor – Reminds many buyers of family holidays and traditions.

  • American-Made – Perceived as a local product despite Hormel’s growth.

The Cure 81 name successfully conjures up all of these favorable connotations that still draw customers decade after decade.

Key Takeaways About the Origins of Cure 81 Hams

Tracing the history behind Cure 81 hams shows how a brand name can evolve in meaning over the years while still maintaining a connection to quality. Here are some of the main points:

  • Hormel chose Cure 81 in the ’60s to imply high-tech, future-focused engineering.

  • The 81 tied the ham to ideas of space age innovation and progress.

  • Cure also referred to their proprietary process overseen by a Curemaster.

  • Shoppers quickly adopted Cure 81 based on its modern reputation.

  • Today Cure 81 has a more nostalgic appeal, but still signifies conscientious production.

Understanding the whole story gives new insight into this distinctive product that has graced family tables for generations. The unusual name is not just quirky—it’s a tie to American food history.

Hormel Cure 81 Ham Commercial (1976)


What is the history of Cure 81 ham?

According to the Hormel Foods Web site, in 1963, in an unprecedented approach to product development, Geo. A. Hormel & Company asked more than 1,000 homemakers to help create “the world’s most nearly perfect ham,” now known as Hormel® Cure 81® ham.

Is cure 81 ham fully cooked?

It comes fully cooked, so you can serve it cold or heat it up for a quick and easy meal. This sliced half ham is a wonderful source of protein making it a wholesome, filling food to serve family and guests. It’s perfect to serve at the holidays when family is gathered or at a party with your closest friends.

Can I freeze a hormel cure 81 ham?

Ham may be kept frozen for up to 60 days.

What brand is Cure 81?

THE PERFECT HAM FOR THE PERFECT OCCASION. Special occasions call for a special ham. More than half a century ago, Hormel Foods set out to make a ham that was extra special, one that perfectly met consumer expectations and preferences.

What is a Cure 81 ham?

Made with handcrafted care and individually stamped with our Curemaster’s signature of approval, each CURE 81 ® ham is personally guaranteed to deliver the premium quality, flavor and tenderness ham lovers desire. With a passion for perfection, our Curemaster stands behind every ham at your table. THE PERFECT HAM FOR THE PERFECT OCCASION.

Is honey baked ham as good as regular ham?

The addition of honey will affect the calorie content of the food. One tablespoon of honey contributes to approximately 64 calories. In addition, the use of heat when making baked ham will reduce the quality of the honey.

What happened to Hormel Cure 81 ham?

The Hormel Cure 81 ham has been around for years, but recently their company is having some issues with the product. The original product was produced with a lot of salt, but it has been discontinued in favor of a less salty version.

What is a cured ham?

Cured ham is made by adding artificial nitrates or nitrites like sodium nitrite or potassium nitrite, sugar, phosphates, and other seasonings and preservatives to a regular mixture of salt and brine. Nitrites are important for curing because they help prevent bacterial growth on meat. If not properly preserved, the ham would decompose rapidly.

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