An MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) is a lightweight, self-contained field ration used by military forces in situations where regular food preparation isn’t an option. Modern MREs rely on food preparation and packaging technology to supply a meal that is safe to eat and can survive extreme conditions.
MREs contain around 1200 calories, and are designed for extreme durability. They can withstand a parachute drop of 1250 feet, and a non-parachute drop of 98 feet. They are built to last over 3 years in normal temperature conditions, up to 9 months at high temperatures (38 degrees Celsius) and for short durations at extreme heat and cold. They weigh between 1-1.5 lb (heaver than freeze dried food because they contain moisture).
CONTENTS OF MREs
Entrée (main course)
A side dish
Crackers or bread
Peanut butter, jelly, or cheese spread
A powdered beverage mix
A plastic spoon
Flameless ration heater (FRH)
Beverage mixing bag
And the accessory pack may include:
HISTORY OF MREs
The first soldier rations issued by the American government was during the revolutionary war, when a day’s supply of beef, peas and rice were given. They were stored in cans, making them heavier to carry. During the First World War, preserved meat was used instead, making rations much lighter to carry. But cost saving measures during the Second World War and the Korean War led to a full-scale return to canned rations.
Improved food preservation and packaging techniques led to the MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) replacing canned food (then known as MCI, Meal, combat, individual rations) in 1981.
To ensure that soldiers finished eating their meals, various kinds of meals were introduced. As of now there are 24 available entrees, including vegetarian, kosher and hallal, and 150 additional items.
In 1992 the flameless ration heater was introduced, a stove that uses a water-activated, exothermic reaction to supply a cooked meal.
In 2006 beverage bags were introduced, which allowed for precise measurement of liquid and could be placed in the stove.
The military continues to experiment with making rations more appealing to soldiers, including light, no-preparation meal bars.
THE TASTE (OR LACK THEREOF?) AND AWESOME NICKNAMES OF MREs
The early MREs left much to be desired in the taste department, and have given them a bad reputation. This has led to MREs receiving such splendid nicknames as “Meals Rejected by Everyone”, “Meals, Rarely Edible”, and my personal favorite, “Three Lies for the Price of One” (it’s not a Meal, it’s not Ready, and you can’t Eat it).
Their lack of dietary fiber has also led to certain gastrointestinal issues for the people who eat them. Some of the awesome nicknames in regards to this are “Meals Requiring Enemas”, “Meals Refusing to Exit”, and “Massive Rectal Expulsions”.
While the military is always attempting to make MREs taste better and more appealing to soldiers- and it seems like they have had some success with this- any meal designed primarily for function and durability is probably going to be lacking something in the taste department.
Every case of MREs purchased by the military has this printed on it:
U.S. Government Property, Commercial Resale is Unlawful
The thing is, there is no actual law on the books prohibiting resale, so tons of MREs show up on EBay each year that appear to have come from military/government sources. There was a big investigation after Hurricane Katrina when many cases of MREs meant for disaster relief ended up being auctioned.
The good news is that this whole mess can be avoided, and civilians can buy MREs from the same contractors who supply the US military, with only minor changes in detail.
Good luck and stay prepared!