Institute a positive impact on health

Published 7:06 am Saturday, February 16, 2019

Jay C. Hormel receives a great deal of credit for that fabulous meat in a can called Spam. But his interest in science and innovation also makes him well known for establishing the Hormel Institute.

At our History Happy Hour program this week, Andy Lucas presented a great overview of how the Institute came to be. Lucas, librarian for the Hormel Institute since 2005, explained how the organization was formed, how it has changed, and a little about its future.

You could say Jay Hormel was an opportunist. As a young boy he listened to his father describe how housewives were letting valuable grease literally go down the drain. Jay took it upon himself to educate the women on how to collect the commodity and he offered to buy it from them. He then sold the collected grease to his father at the meatpacking plant for a profit.

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Several years later, while a student at Princeton University, Jay saw an opportunity to improve the productivity of the campus laundry. His creative practices led to a successful laundry operation, but didn’t do much for his academic record at that time.

After returning home to begin his career by his father’s side, Jay’s ability to see opportunity led to many advancements for the company. He knew that scientific research could allow the company to continue producing the high quality products they were known for, but he also saw how the research being done could potentially impact human health.

The modern day Hormel Institute has 17 labs and employs over 120 people. Over 80 papers have been published by their researchers in the last year. Their focus continues to be on the prevention and treatment of cancer. From the development of the famous mini pig which aided in research practices to the discovery of the heart health benefits of Omega 3 fatty acid, The Hormel Institute now conducts broad cancer research that benefits the world.

I have to admit that some of the scientific information that Mr. Lucas shared with us went a little over my head. Jay Hormel might not have been a biochemist or had a molecular chemistry background, but he knew how to find the people who could seize the opportunity to advance our scientific world. The main takeaway from the presentation was that the Hormel Institute does amazing work and has for many years. Their work is another example of the lasting legacy that George and Jay Hormel, and so many others within the corporation, have left in Austin.

Thanks to Andy Lucas for preserving and sharing the valuable work of the Institute with our community.

What’s happening at the HHH

Foodie Throwdown-Winers & Diners

  • 6-9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16
  • Eighth annual Fundraising Event featuring 5 chef teams. $35 per person. For more information visit

Kids Music in Motion

  • 10-11:30 a.m., Saturday, March 2
  • Featuring Austin’s Ecumenical Bell Choir