1920 Hormel’s Dairy Brand Bacon Advertisement

Advertisement for Hormel's Dairy Brand Bacon
Source: Good Housekeeping (June, 1920)

When browsing through hundred-year-old magazines I occasionally come across advertisements that make little sense. Today was one of those days. This advertisement for Hormel’s Dairy Brand Bacon left me with more questions than answers.

  • Why is a pork product called “Dairy Brand”?
  • What is the food the woman in the ad is holding, and does it contain bacon?
  • Did this advertisement increase sales? . . . or did it totally flop?

54 thoughts on “1920 Hormel’s Dairy Brand Bacon Advertisement

    1. When looking at old advertisements, I’m often surprised at how many company names I recognize. There are a lot of companies that have somehow managed to survive for over a hundred years.

  1. The clue is the word ‘flitch’ in the advertisement. According to the dictionary, it means “the side of a hog (or, formerly, some other animal) salted and cured: a flitch of bacon.” In timbering, slabs of wood from a tree sometimes are called flitches, too.

    I don’t know why they used ‘Dairy Brand,’ but its use began in 1903. It may be due to the fact that they expanded their offerings to include eggs, cheese, and so on.

  2. Packaged “in flitch”? What the heck does that mean? I’d say that the woman is holding a plate with a slice of ham studded with cloves. Why? Beats me.

    1. She’s holding a ham as “Dairy Brand” is associated with Hormel pork products. So it’s really an advertisement for Hormel pork, not bacon per se. It goes on to note the bacon and that they sell it pre sliced, not just “in flitch”, i.e., as a side.

      1. Your comment made me reread the ad, and you’re right – this is an advertisement for more than bacon! You make me realize that I should have read the ad more carefully.

  3. “Dairy Brand” is a Hormel product line. I.e., a trademark. They’ve used it for a long time, but I don’t know the origin of it.

    A “flitch” is a side of bacon (or actually a side of cured meat).

    1. Until I read your comment I had no idea that there still are products labeled “Dairy Brand.” It’s such an odd name for pork products, but it obviously has stood the test of time.

    1. Side meat means a side of bacon. Meat taken from the sides of the pig which is often fairly fatty.

      You can still find it in the grocery store although I think I’ve only ever had it once, when somebody went to the store and bought it thinking it was bacon. It in fact becomes bacon if cured, or if its salted, it becomes salt pork.

      Bacon itself is sort of interesting in regard to the topic we’re discussing here, as its a cured meat, and curing meat is a means of preserving it, which was its original purpose. The same is true of salt pork. As refrigeration and home freezers came in people pretty much gave up salted meat for the most part, as they’re a burden to prepare. Even things like Ham used to involve the process of boiling off the salt, and people of my parents generation sometimes had really mixed views about corned beef as the same often had to be done with it. Today, when people have corned beef, for example, they really aren’t eating the same thing, exactly, that people a century ago were.

      Anyhow, lots of people like bacon (I do) and its interestingly gone from a staple that people had as it was easy to keep when you only had an ice box (and I’ll forgo how it was otherwise kept earlier than that), to something that modern foodies practically treat as a delicacy. Of course, like ham, there’s always been variants of it that were delicacies.

      How did your family fix side meat?

        1. No. Pork belly is actually the belly. Side meat is up the sides.

          I think it was the Swift Packing Company that used to claim it used “everything but the squeal” from pigs. At one time, that was nearly true.

      1. It’s fascinating how much more important it was to cure meat in the days before refrigerators and freezers. So many foods that were once staples now seem to be a delicacy – and some foods that once were considered special are now common.

  4. I tracked down the Dairy Brand in the newspaper archives. The Hormel’s pork products “come from a dairy country where the hogs are almost entirely fattened on milk” (Holton Recorder, 1916). I would agree the photo is likely a studded ham, but could have been a flitch also (side of the pig, cut in half lengthwise). The restaurant “Flitch of Bacon” in Little Dunmow, England prepared a dish that was made from a flitch of bacon.

    1. Thanks for researching this. I am now beginning to understand logic behind “Dairy Brand.” It’s fascinating that these hogs were milk fed. I have a vague memory of some other brand advertising that its hogs were “corn fed.” I wonder which resulted in higher quality meat.

      1. I do not know the logic, but since the item I found said “fattened on milk” I wonder if it meant that it was added to increase the weight gain when they were ready to fatten them for slaughter? I recall farm animals getting additional feed just before going to market. I think corn was likely a primary food, but honestly, all the country farmers I knew fed their pigs “slop” which was just all the leftover food or scraps from preparing food. They had a slop bucket, and it was all dumped in throughout the day and then fed to the pigs at night–hopefully along with feed, but I do not remember nor know that.

        1. It makes sense to me that milk may have been added to the hogs’ diet to fatten them before slaughter. Your comment brought back memories of hearing farmers talk about feeding pigs slop when I was a child.

        1. Whew, that was NOT my favorite milk additive – but my mother was totally convinced that it was much healthier than chocolate powder or syrup. 🙂

  5. This advertisement is ridiculously multi-layered. June is dairy, so you should eat things that are associated with dairy, our pork is named dairy brand, so you should eat our pork. Thanks for keeping it simple, Hormel. Also, it’s totally natural and organic and not arbitrary at all for June to be associated with dairy.

    1. This ad is way too multi-layered for me. I tend to think that simple, clear messages work better to sell products. But who knows, maybe this ad was a huge success – the company is still around.

  6. I love old ads, this one made me smile. Little did the readers of that day ever dream that one day we would cook bacon in a microwave oven and even, perish the thought, buy it precooked from the grocery store. (Note, I do not buy precooked!)

    1. Now that you mention it; I agree, it looks like a turtle – and, similarly to you, I think that we probably should stick with the idea of a clove studded ham.

  7. I have been working on a project regarding the early years and success of the Hormel Company which was founded in 1891. Here is what I found regarding the “Dairy Brand” ham product, from a book entitled “In Quest of Quality.” This book was written in 1966 for the 75th anniversary of the company. Some more information on “Dairy Brand” can be found in George Hormel’s autobiography, “The Open Road,” which was published just a few years ago and is an excellent read.

    “Dairy Brand” ham was introduced by the Geo. A. Hormel & Co. in 1903. “Dairy Brand” was cured by a special process discovered by George Hormel following years of experimentation. An earlier product Hormel produced was called the “Superior Brand” which was a mild sugar-cured ham. Southern Minnesota (where Hormel was located at the time, Austin) was an area of abundant dairy farming. Over the years, George Hormel had been experimenting on different ways of producing the highest grade of meats. Following one of the annual meetings, George’s wife Lillian and her friend Mrs. Eberhart, wife of another Hormel board member, demonstrated several different ways of preparing this new brand of ham. The pig from which this brand of product was made, was found only in the dairy districts of southern Minnesota. The hog was fed on skimmed milk from the creameries in the area and from corn, producing a rich, lean ham and bacon. From what appears to me from my research, before Hormel’s Dairy Brand,” hog growers basically let their hogs eat anything they wanted to eat to fatten them up. The creation of “Dairy Brand” appears to be an early example of animal growers learning that what they feed their animals will affect the quality of meat produced by the animal. Today, we see an emphasis on meats labeled “grass fed only” and organic. Dairy Brand became one of George Hormel’s top quality products for more than the next sixty years.

    1. Thanks for sharing this information. It is absolutely fascinating how this brand part of the movement towards more modern feeding practicies that lead to higher (and more consistent) quality meat.

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