Spam Options

To stretch their battered food dollars, Americans are turning to a much-maligned staple: Spam. Sales of the canned meat product rose 10 percent over the previous three months as inflation-hit consumers used it to replace pricier cuts on their menus. And with food prices reaching heights unseen in a generation, the "spam option" is turning out to be universal.

Many Japanese schools have taken beef out of lunches in favor of less costly chicken or pork. In India, lower-middle-class families are eating meat once a week on average instead of two to three times previously, while the abject poor subsist mainly on rice, chilies and salt. South Africa's slum-dwellers get by on chicken heads, feet and gizzards mixed with wild greens. In the Philippines, villagers are substituting yams and other tubers for rice they can no longer afford. Officials in Bangladesh are promoting spuds as an alternative to rice, which is in short supply. Their slogan: "Think potato, grow potato, eat potato."