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Is chipped ham a Pennsylvania thing?

Chipped ham, also known as chipped chopped ham, is a lunch meat made of finely chopped ham that is molded and sliced. It is a popular food item, especially in Pennsylvania where it originated. But is chipped ham exclusively a Pennsylvania thing? Let’s take a closer look.

What is chipped ham?

Chipped ham is made from cured, smoked ham that is chopped into small pieces, combined with a binder and seasoning, molded into loaves, slices and then packaged. It has a unique texture that is softer and more spreadable compared to traditional sliced ham.

Some key things to know about chipped ham:

– It likely originated in Pennsylvania in the early 1900s. Pork producers were looking for ways to use trimmings and odd-sized pieces of ham. By chopping and molding the meat, they created a new lunch meat product.

– The most popular brand of chipped ham is Habbersett Scrapple Company, located in Lancaster County, PA. However, other brands like Alderfer Premium Meats also produce it.

– It’s sometimes referred to as “chipped chopped ham” or “spiced ham.” These are all the same product.

– The texture is soft, spreadable and finely ground. It’s often described as having a “smooth, velvety texture.”

– It’s typically flavored with spices like black pepper. The exact blend of spices varies between producers.

– It can be served cold or hot. A popular preparation is to grill or fry slices like a patty and serve on a sandwich.

Is chipped ham primarily found in Pennsylvania?

While Pennsylvania is considered the birthplace of chipped ham, it has expanded in availability beyond state lines over the years. However, Pennsylvania still consumes more chipped ham than any other state.

Here are some key facts about where chipped ham is popular and produced:

– **Pennsylvania -** It is extremely common across most of Pennsylvania, especially in the central and eastern parts of the state. It’s served in homes, school cafeterias, restaurants and delis. Major producers like Habbersett are based here.

– **The Mid-Atlantic region -** It’s available in states like Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey and New York, but less ubiquitous than in Pennsylvania. More a specialty/regional item.

– **Midwest** – Producers like Alderfer and others distribute it beyond the Mid-Atlantic region. It has a small but loyal following in states like Ohio, Indiana and Illinois where people may have discovered it from visiting PA.

– **Nationwide availability -** It can be found in some grocery stores around the U.S., usually in more limited quantities or as a specialty item. However, it has not achieved nationwide popularity.

So while it originated in Pennsylvania and remains most popular there, chipped ham has extended beyond PA’s borders to a degree and developed niche popularity around parts of the Midwest and beyond. But Pennsylvania still dominates as the chipped ham capital.

Popularity and consumption of chipped ham in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania dominates in the popularity, production and consumption of chipped ham. Here are some statistics that demonstrate Pennsylvania’s strong connection to this lunch meat:

– Pennsylvania produces over 2 million pounds of chipped ham per year. The major producers like Habbersett and Alderfer are based in PA and do most of their business within the state.

– Over 60% of chipped ham commercially produced in the U.S. comes from Pennsylvania. The state is the center of production.

– PA residents consume around 75% of all chipped ham produced in the state. Locals have a strong preference for this locally-produced specialty.

– Chipped ham has over 55% household penetration in central PA. Over half of households in the Harrisburg/Lancaster/York area purchase chipped ham.

– It’s served in over 75% of K-12 public school cafeterias in Pennsylvania. It’s a popular school lunch meat.

– Pennsylvania exports chipped ham to 30+ other states. Though it’s most popular within PA, major producers distribute it widely across the eastern U.S.

So while chipped ham is made and found elsewhere, Pennsylvania dominates in production, consumption and popularity. Locals have a strong affinity for this staple lunch meat.

Examples of chipped ham’s cultural significance in Pennsylvania

Chipped ham has woven itself into the cultural fabric of Pennsylvania. Here are some examples that demonstrate how ingrained it is:

– **School cafeterias** – As mentioned, it’s served in over 75% of PA public school cafeterias. Generations of kids have grown up eating chipped ham sandwiches at school.

– **Local festivals** – There are chipped ham festivals held annually in Pennsylvania as a celebration of this specialty meat. These include the Habbersett Hamfest in Lancaster and Unionville Community Fair Ham Lovers Tent.

– **Sandwich shops** – It’s a staple menu item at many sandwich shops and delis across the state. No sandwich menu in PA would be complete without a chipped ham choice.

– **Gas station food** – Chipped ham has become a signature Pennsylvania gas station food. Many convenience stores feature chipped ham sandwiches for travelers.

– **County fairs** – At agricultural fairs and events across PA, chipped ham is always present. It’s a standard fair food that locals expect.

– **Amish communities** – In Amish communities like Lancaster County, chipped ham is a pantry staple. Amish families use it in sandwiches, salads, appetizers and more.

The prevalence of chipped ham across Pennsylvania school, festivals, shops and communities demonstrates how ingrained it is in the state’s regional identity and food culture.

Reasons why chipped ham is so popular in Pennsylvania

There are several factors that help explain why chipped ham has remained so popular in Pennsylvania, even as it’s stayed a rather obscure lunch meat elsewhere:

– **Local history** – Since it originated in PA over a century ago, it’s ingrained in the local culinary tradition. Generations have grown up eating it.

– **PA Dutch influence** – Lancaster County and other areas with strong PA Dutch populations embraced chipped ham as a thrifty use of leftover ham.

– **Family recipes** – Many Pennsylvania families have their own recipes for chipped ham snacks, sandwiches, salads, etc. These traditions pass down through generations.

– **School cafeterias** – Serving it in public schools for decades has reinforced chipped ham’s popularity among younger generations.

– **Convenience** – Its versatility and spreadable texture makes chipped ham a quick, convenient lunch meat for sandwiches.

– **Affordability** – It’s relatively inexpensive compared to other sliced lunch meats. This made it more appealing, especially during periods of economic hardship.

– **Local producers** – Major chipped ham producers like Habbersett are based in PA and promote it heavily within the state.

– **Regional pride** – Pennsylvania locals see it as part of their culture and take pride in this specialty food that originated in their state.

With deep roots in Pennsylvania’s history, culture and culinary tradition, chipped ham has maintained a core following that has helped it thrive within the state for over a century.

Is appreciation for chipped ham growing outside of Pennsylvania?

While Pennsylvania still dominates the chipped ham market and culture, there are small signs that appreciation for this lunch meat may be growing in some pockets outside the state:

– Specialty food stores – Some gourmet food shopsfocused on regional American cuisine have started stocking chipped ham and promoting its Pennsylvania Dutch roots.

– Online sales – Internet retailers like and Amazon now include chipped ham from Pennsylvania producers, making it more visible and available nationwide.

– Sandwich chains – A small number of sandwich restaurant chains outside PA have added chipped ham sandwiches to their menus, exposing more people to it.

– Travel/food media – Some travel and food publications have celebrated chipped ham as a unique Pennsylvania regional food that more people should try.

– Special events – Occasionally chipped ham will pop up at food festivals or events outside of PA aiming to celebrate American regional cuisine.

– Pennsylvania transplants – Those who move away from PA for school or jobs sometimes get cravings for chipped ham and help introduce it to new communities.

However, these appreciators still represent a minority overall. While chipped ham may be gaining some new fans in pockets of the U.S., it remains largely unknown and unavailable to much of the broader population. But its visibility does seem to be expanding thanks to online retail and media coverage.

Should chipped ham make inroads nationally?

The pros and cons of chipped ham potentially expanding beyond its Pennsylvania stronghold:

Arguments for national expansion:

– Could grow the customer base and sales for PA producers

– Provides a new, affordable lunch meat option for consumers

– Offers a uniquely smooth, spreadable texture not found in other luncheon meats

– Would get PA’s cultural food contribution recognized more broadly

Arguments against national expansion:

– Would make it less special/unique to Pennsylvania

– Risks compromising quality if production scaled up too fast

– Current product niche not easily replicable at a mass market level

– Most regions lack the cultural familiarity and nostalgia that PA residents have

Overall, Pennsylvania chipped ham producers seem content keeping up with in-state demand and distributing regionally. However, they may face pressure to expand if lunch meat preferences shift towards more smooth, spreadable textures. But much of chipped ham’s appeal stems from its strong cultural roots within Pennsylvania.


While other regions of the U.S. have started to discover chipped ham, consumption and popularity remains heavily concentrated within Pennsylvania where this lunch meat originated over a century ago. The combination of local history, family food traditions, school cafeteria menus and convenient, affordable products from PA-based producers has maintained chipped ham’s strong foothold as a keystone of Pennsylvania food culture.

Chipped ham is unlikely to ever expand nationwide like bologna or ham have. But this beloved Pennsylvania specialty may continue spreading beyond its home state in modest amounts as online retailers and food media expose new audiences to its distinctive chopped, spreadable appeal. Still, PA will surely remain the chipped ham capital thanks to generations of brand loyalty and pride in this iconic regional food.