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The Army's Miraculous Food Invention You Never Knew About

The Lost SuperFoods

By Oemer YILDIRIMPublished 2 years ago 3 min read

Even though they’re not the most glamorous of topics, ration packs have become essential during military campaigns all over the world, and especially so in war zones where hot meals aren’t always readily available to the soldiers on the front line. But although many different types of rations have been developed throughout history, one particular innovation by the United States Army back in the 1940s has been virtually forgotten, and it’s actually quite miraculous when you take into account how long it can last without spoiling. Here’s what it is and why it’s so ingenious.

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A brief history of army rationsuj

Army rations have come a long way since the Revolutionary War. The first military bread ration, or biscuit, was issued in 1812. This consisted of hardtack, which is just flour and water that's baked until it becomes hard. Soldiers had to dip the biscuit in coffee or soup to soften it up enough to be edible. In WWII, soldiers were issued canned meat for their meals as well as dehydrated potatoes and vegetables. While this seems like an improvement over eating hard biscuits, foodborne illnesses became more common due to lack of fresh produce. After World War II, officials replaced some canned foods with freeze-dried items (these are still in use today). More improvements came about with better dehydration techniques so that food could stay fresh for longer periods of time without refrigeration.

How the army came to create Meals, Ready-to-Eat

Soldiers in the US military have been eating MREs since 1973. The acronym stands for Meals, Ready-to-Eat and they were originally created to provide food that would be easy to store and prepare on the battlefield. Over the years, meals like spaghetti with meat sauce, mashed potatoes and brownies became a favorite of soldiers stationed overseas.

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Operation Desert Shield / Storm (1990–1991) and other conflicts

It was during Operation Desert Storm in 1990 that the US Army invented a vacuum-sealed meal. They called it the Meal Ready to Eat (MRE). It comes with an entree, a side dish, a dessert, and some sort of drink mix. The food is designed to have a shelf life of three years. Today’s MREs include beef stew, chicken teriyaki, beef with rice, and turkey with gravy. There are also vegetarian options like vegetarian pasta primavera or lentil soup. Some desserts are chocolate brownie or oatmeal raisin cookie, while others are cherry fruitcake or pineapple cake. There are also drinks like apple juice, grapefruit juice, lemonade mix, caffeinated coffee or tea.

Meals, Ready-to-Eat today

Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MREs) have been around since the early 1980s. They are a staple in the US military and government agencies. The MREs are self-contained meals that include items like entrées, side dishes, breads or snacks, condiments, and beverages. There are 12 different menus of MREs available which all vary in calories and nutrition. They range from 1,250 to 2,400 calories per day. For example: BEEF POT ROAST w/BEANS AND FRENCH FRIES can be served as an entrée for lunch or dinner with two side dish options; MILK CHOCOLATE CANDY BAR is a snack option on many menus; COOKIE is often served as dessert; JUICE BOXES OR CANNED SOFT DRINKS make up the beverage options.

More uses for MREs

MREs are not only great for soldiers, but also for people who find themselves in survival situations. They can be used as a reliable food source to help keep people alive until they get rescued or reach safety. MREs are already shelf-stable and provide an average of 1800 calories per meal, so they're perfect for long-term storage and extended periods of time. MREs can last up to three years on the shelf if stored at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. MREs are lightweight and compact, so they're easy to transport when necessary.

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