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Science Technology

The Future of MREs 335

jonerik writes: "MSNBC features this article today about scientists at Washington State University who are attempting to perfect a way to add two staples of American cuisine - eggs and macaroni & cheese - to the US military's MRE ration packs. The problem has been that MREs need to have a shelf life of three years. The scientists have focused on microwaving the rations during the packaging process instead of the traditional method of boiling the contents (which alters the smell and color of eggs and cheese and makes pasta soggy)."
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The Future of MREs

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  • The current menu (Score:5, Informative)

    by spt ( 557979 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @12:20AM (#3055864)
    MREs [dla.mil]

    They look nice. I'll have a #3 please.
    • Number 6 is also quite good :)
    • Man, kids today are spoiled. :) When I was in the infantry (1987-89) there were like eight different "menus", and two of those were the beef and pork patties, which looked and tasted pretty much identical: like baked sand. We used to call them "Alpo crackers" for obvious reasons. I had lousy luck -- I remember one time, we were downrange for two weeks, and I think I got nothing but beef and pork patties for ten days or so. This probably explains why after a couple of years I crosstrained to be a medic.
  • Nothing like sitting down to a hot bowl of eggs and macaroni & cheese.

    That's a meal that will keep our soldiers sane. The three great tastes that go great together!
    • Re:Yummy!!! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Actually, the Chili Macaroni went great with the Jalapeno cheese, except that they were in two different MRE's, so you either had to trade your poundcake for the cheese or steal another MRE.

      I became an artist for putting together the perfect MRE. Some things trade for higher value, and eventually I would end up with something completely different than what I first grabbed, or with twice as much. It's like currency, only you that you can not only trade it and trade it again, you can also eat it.

      As far as the freezedried items, the freezedried peaches are supposed to go with water, but they taste better crispy. They literally melt in you mouth!

      MRE's are great in the field, because, unlike the hot food served in the field, you can eat them without having to imagine and pretend you are eating food at every chew. The only thing is that a regular diet of MRE's will leave you a little, well, plugged.
      • As far as the freezedried items, the freezedried peaches are supposed to go with water, but they taste better crispy. They literally melt in you mouth!

        *saliva beings to flow*

        man its been too long. those peaches were so good =)
    • The three great tastes that go great together!

      Hmmm How about Reese's Eggs&Macaroni&Cheese Cups?
  • Well, at least they're doing it halfway through my military career instead of right at the end...

  • That's always been the problem with the battle field, no good comfort food like macaroni and cheese.
  • Reason? (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by LiquidPC ( 306414 )
    Is there a particular reason theyre spending money (a great deal, I assume) on paying scientist to figure out how to add eggs and mac'n'cheese to rations, other than "A lot of people eat it". Seems like a waste of money to me.
    • Because if you don't have at least some semblance of variety, eating the exact same thing day in and day out, you'll start throwing those damn things up a whole lot faster. You try eating the exact same thing 2-3 times a day for a month and see if you can still stand it, it's harder than you'd think.
    • Re:Reason? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 2nd Post! ( 213333 )
      It's a conscious decision to spend money on our soldier's comfort and happiness. I can advocate that.

      I mean, it's not any more wasteful than spending money designing and creating newer and bigger SUVs or creating and marketing XBoxes.
    • This is another situation where military technology is not just useful to the military. While I agree that way to much money is spent on the military, MREs are usefull to a lot of other folk as well. The firefighters that put out forest/range-land/wild fires during the summer make great use of MREs. I have, on occasion, taken them out into the field with me for several night trips. MREs provide a good number of calories (something like 5-6k per package) at a reasonable cost in mass. On MRE is generally enough for two meals, though only the first one is hot.
      • Re:Reason? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Fat Casper ( 260409 )
        One problem- MREs have between 1200 and 1600 calories per, and that's if you eat every last item, down to the non-dairy creamer.

        There are two major problems with this story. "The problem has been that MREs need to have a shelf life of three years. The scientists have focused on microwaving the rations during the packaging process instead of the traditional method of boiling the contents (which alters the smell and color of eggs and cheese and makes pasta soggy)." What?!?! As one who has suffered through "Omlette With Ham" too many times, I can assure you that eggs have been on the menu. Even today there's "Buttered Noodles" and "Pasta With Alfredo Sauce." A quick check of the menu linked to shows even more pasta dishes. What it doesn't show is "Pork Chow Mein." What am I going to eat when my unit runs out of those? I still miss the "Spicy Meatballs And Rice In Tomato Sauce." Now that was a meal.

  • Used to be a disclaimer on each box that they have been stored in temperature and humidity controlled conditions and date of pack should not be considered when determining usage. FWIW, I doubt it matters toooo much, since I've had several that were well over 5 years old, and I got no sicker off those than brand spanking new ones. :) Some of them you can work with, and some are just plain nasty, much like anything else I suppose.
    • Re:Shelf Life (Score:2, Informative)

      by sacherjj ( 7595 )
      Bascially it is like this:
      Temp - Shelf Life (months)
      120 - 1
      110 - 5
      100 - 18
      90 - 30
      80 - 48
      70 - 66
      60 - 84
      = 50 - 96
    • by TheOnlyCoolTim ( 264997 ) <tim.bolbrockNO@SPAMverizon.net> on Saturday February 23, 2002 @02:23AM (#3056199)
      Several years back, my school decided to get rid of this Civil Defense Postapocalyptic Nuclear Shelter/Hospital that they had in the basement.

      Apparently, if the Commies ever dropped the Big One on NYC, the survivors were supposed to live on water, crackers, and hard candies. The water was all gone by the time we went in there, along with the Geiger Counters (which I really wanted - apparently at some point some public agency came and took them back), but there were still maybe an 8' high 6' wide 18' long stack of all these boxes of candy and crackers, packed with various dates around 1963. There were big cardboard boxes with a Civil Defense logo on the side, the words SURVIVAL CRACKERS or CARBOHYDRATE SUPPLEMENT on the side, and inside were either 6 tins of crackers (~40 pounds total) or 2 45 pound tins of red and yellow hard candies.

      Both were still good in '99 when we cut open the tins and tried. Crackers tasted pretty nasty and dry, but the candy was delicious. I still have stored in an airtight container some candy that was dated October 1963, I'm waiting for October next year so I can eat 40 year old sour balls.

      • Commies ever dropped the Big One on NYC

        Seriously, let's think about that for a sec...

        We all pretty much know there would be widespread destruction, even if it were a relatively small bomb like Fat Man or Little Boy. But in light of the WTC tower collapse, imagine the entire area of NYC in the same ruins. If you were down in this bomb shelter and managed to survive both the explosion and the hundreds of buildings collapsing around you, would you even be able to get out.

        And once you got out, think of all the debris, I mean an empty building being demolished on purpose is enough garbage, but then you'll have cars, buses, furniture, bodies, etc. Your average ICBM has a 5 - 6 megaton warhead, the two dropped over Japan were something like 50-60 kilotons, I expect even the the strongest building would be reduced to rubble.

        The national guard would be completely helpless in any kind of rescue mission for survivors. And on top of all this, all you'd have to snack on would be some nasty crackers and sour candies! Of course, you could always resort to eating track rabbit like the homeless in the subways.
  • Our company works with the military quite a bit, and I've had an occasion to try an MRE. They're actually kind of cool. They come with their own (chemical) heat source and re-heat the foods pretty rapidly-- It uses technology similiar to those little handwarmers I use to have when I was a paperboy. As I recall, you'd boil em to "reset" em.. (I think the MRE heatsources are one-use)

    In any case-- it's okay-- better than freeze dried anything-- but I still wouldn't like one of them falling on my head from the skies above-- it's not *that* delicious.
    • Yep ... take the guts out, throw it all in an empty two liter, add water, close ... throw ... instant training device .... :)
    • They're "cool" maybe once in a while... try eating them for days or weeks on end. You'll grow tired quickly. :-)
  • Didn't these scientists ever go to college?

  • Just find those brilliant guys who invented the nitrogen "widget" in the Guinness can.

    You open the eggs, macaroni and cheese. A capsule inside explodes, instantly cooking the meal to perfection.

    Mmmmm... incinerated gruel.


    • Just find those brilliant guys who invented the nitrogen "widget" in the Guinness can.

      You open the eggs, macaroni and cheese. A capsule inside explodes, instantly cooking the meal to perfection.
      Or how about just including a pint of Guinness. That would be brilliant!
  • There is no macaroni-and-cheese or egg products in MREs," said Juming Tang, a professor of biological systems engineering at the university.

    Look at menus [dla.mil] 10, 11 14 and especially 13.
    How come Cheese Tortellini doesn't suffer from the same problems as Mac&Cheese as described in the article (pasta goes mushy, cheese tastes burnt) ?
  • You'd think sitting on a shelf for 3 years would take care of any such worries.
  • by dinotrac ( 18304 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @12:37AM (#3055920) Journal
    Macaroni and cheese?
    What next?
    Peanut butter and jelly?

    I can see it now.

    "Hey, soldier. Get up at the crack of dawn, lug around a hundred pound pack through all kinds of terrain, in all kinds of weather.
    Maybe get shot at. Maybe have to shoot back.
    Maybe get your sorry butt killed.

    But if you manage to make it back to camp, you can have three year old mac and cheese."

    Bet the recruiting lines are a mile long.
  • Last time I checked, Microwaved eggs tasted nasty thankyouverymuch. Blech.
  • ...is that there's actually a vegetarian MRE [dla.mil].

    You don't win wars with sal-ad! You don't win wars with sal-ad! You don't win wars with sal-ad! [cartoonsounds.com] :-)

    • Not everyone eats meat, and not everyone eats every kind of meat. The MREs that were being dropped to Afghans were vegetarian MREs. There are also vegetarian soldiers in the US Army, and Muslim/Jews who cannot eat Pork and Hindus who cannot eat Beef.
      • Which, to me, is an interesting idea. In 'respecting people's beliefs', the Army (and other armed services) has gotten away from a core tenet: You are not special. You are a part of the Green Machine, as they say, or a part of the Navy/Air Force/the Corps (the Marines, sorry). The point is that once everyone is treated the same, then you won't have the little whining about how "it's against my $BELIEFSET !"

        Cripes. PC is nice, and all, but this is a little extreme. About the only real choice you had in boot camp was to holler for what kind of meat you wanted. Didn't want either? Better eat something to give you energy while your Company Commander makes you drop. :)

        Ah, the memories...

        • Does that also mean the military shouldn't provide Jewish, Muslim, and other minority religion chaplains for soldiers who follow those faiths? You can take "you are not special" too far. As long as it doesn't interfere with accomplishing the mission, taking care of GI's as individuals as well as part of a team is a very good idea.

          Happy soldiers are better soldiers. The idea that enforced misery makes better soldiers has historically been a popular one in a lot of armies, but every time the US military has come up against one of those armies, we've beaten the hell out of them (e.g., the Iraqis. The Iraqi POW's I took care of lived better under our care than they ever had in their own army in peacetime. Probably one reason they were so eager to surrender.)

          -- US Army infantryman 1987-1989, US Air Force medic 1989-1997
      • well that, and the veggie mre's tend to be pretty dang good, imho. even though i'm not a veggie, i'll often trade a non-veggie one for a veggie one if the other guy doesn't want it.
  • good for bears (Score:5, Informative)

    by oyenstikker ( 536040 ) <slashdot@sbyrn e . org> on Saturday February 23, 2002 @12:40AM (#3055937) Homepage Journal
    MRE's a great for camping in bear country. The bears are smart. They learn to knock down bear bags. They'll suck your maple syrup dry, eat your oreos, tear the tent apart, even break the latrine down if you try to put food in it. But they can't smell the MREs and don't touch them. Good thing too, we had a diabetic with us.
  • by reaper20 ( 23396 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @12:41AM (#3055940) Homepage
    Anyone ever wonder why the military, with its tomes of regulations and procedures succumed to the "Rock or something" on an MRE?

    The little heater thingies (mmm, smell like acid), need to lean at an angle to work good ... so on the instructions there is a picture of a rock with an MRE leaning on it, and the caption for the rock is "Rock or something"

    I may sound like a complete moron, but man, in the middle of the desert with no sleep, some dude brings up "Rock or something" and I keel over in laughter.
    • Amen. Seriously, I usually just use my boot. You pop the clips on your LBV (load bearing vest) and lean back on the butt-pack, sort of like a field-expedient recliner, and lean the heater on you boot. It's in the box and if you can feel the heat, you have problems to begin with. Really, I rarely use the heater (too hungry), but most of my fellow Marines prefer hot meals. When I was stationed at Quantico, I had the chance to sample some of the new menus that MARCORSYSCOM (Marine Corps Systems Command - the people who decide what we're going to buy) had approved about a year ago, and even got my picture in the Marine Corps Times. I recommed everything except the Gumbo. It tasted like asshole du-jour.

      Pound cake rules!!!
      • I also prefered my MREs cold. As a bonus, the heaters make terrific prank bombs. Stuff one into a 20oz bottle of soda, add ranid milk, eggs, or other nasty stuff, seal it up tight and throw it into your mark's room...
      • Do they still have those gelatin-covered hot-dog or sausage things? I'm not a real militar person, but I used to do search and rescue with Civil Air Patrol, in a rather army-and-survival centred squadron. I was warned never to eat those slimey hot-dog things, which made me want to try one so I could say "They're not that bad." However, once I actually saw them, I decided to take the advice I'd been given.

        We used to make some sort of cookie-like think using the creamer, sugar, and a flame.

        The other advice I received was to dring *plenty* of water when living off of MREs. That's one more piece of advice I learned to respect.

        -Paul Komarek
      • Pound cake rules!!!

        I was in the Marines during the last update of the MRE, Yes the Pound Cake is good....

        But if anyone remembers Nut Cakes they will tell you it was ten times better then Pound Cake you get now. The Cherry Nut Cake reached a huge zen like status and used to be featured in MC Times cartoons. (I remember one of the old gunny handing out nut cakes to Marines in a fox hole, the caption was "Here's your Marine Corps Birthday cherry nut cake") Mention the nut cakes to someone who has been in over ten years and watch a smile cross thier face.
        • I remember the various nut cakes, but the new chocolate covered oatmeal cookie more than makes up for them. Some people don't like them, so I could usually find someone to trade with.
          • I was never around for the nut cakes (only 5.5 years for me so far), but I have had the chocolate covered oatmeal cookie. Very good, but I want to know how they make it sooooo damn hard. I swear, if I ever run outta ammo, forget bashing the enemy upside the head with my butt-stock, e-tool, or Kevlar. He's getting his cranium smashed in with the ol' chocolate covered oatmeal cookie.
    • The little heater thingies (mmm, smell like acid),

      It's hydrogen. It's sad to think about how much time I wasted trying to ignite the stuff. As someone else mentioned, the most mischievous thing to do with the heaters is put them in a soda bottle. I've also shaved with the water (don't try that at home) and stuffed them in my jacket to keep me warm on cold mornings. It's funny, I've wasted them in so many different ways but I rarely actually heated my food with em.

  • We may critisize the yanks for the americanisation of our world especially for spreading their crap tv, fast food and pop music to all 'corners of the globe', but i'm just SO glad they haven't contaminated Australia with that.... yet.
  • 1) When they ate Rations on the last Enterprise I thought "Gee that seems impraticle." But after reading about the MRE's, it seems like its entirely possible.

    2) These menus seem far more varied than that of the meals I remember eating in my college dorm. So maybe that's why people liked being in ROTC... (j/k)
  • my brother used to bring a sampling home with him after a few weeks of training or what not while in the army. A little sampling of what he had to sustain himself on when in the field for weeks @ a time. Good stuff.

    There's still one that sticks out in my memory, Chicken and Rice. Man, that chicken and rice was tasty. Basically came in a nice vacuum sealed heavy-duty plastic baggie. You cut off a corner and squeezed it like toothpaste to eat. (Or, if you had a mini-set of folding pans, you could heat it up in a little aluminum cup and chow down)

    But the dehydrated fruit, a little 2.5x2.5x.25 inch square of styrofoam looking fruit was n-a-s-t-y. So was the grape drink mix that came with some of the MRE's..The orange powder however, mmm, now that was nice, almost like Tang.
  • by mESSDan ( 302670 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @12:46AM (#3055956) Homepage
    are some great products:

    LBCs - Lazy Boy in a Can, for the soldier out on the battlefield that needs to relax for a while. Can be used with the ...

    SBCCs - Superbowl Commericals in a Can, for the soldier caught out in battle and unable to tune into the superbowl. After all, who cares who wins or loses, the commercials are what count!

    BJCs - Blowjob in a can. This was created by the sex toy industry, and was licensed by Uncle Sam for the "protection" of our boys overseas. (Has been tested under battlefield conditions.)

    OBLCs - Osama Bin Laden in a Can, developed by army engineers with help from the "Dolly" project, this secret device will be used if we are unable to locate the real Osama Bin Laden. Everyday soldiers can have fun with their Osama in a Can by making him do silly stunts, and recording the insane hijinks on....

    CCC - CamCorder in a Can. Send in your funny battlefield tapes to America's funniest Battlefield videos, and win an MRE!

    I just had waaay too much fun with this ;)

  • by Greg151 ( 132824 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @12:51AM (#3055975) Homepage Journal
    In my other, non geek, life, I am a National Guard officer, with a fair amount of time on Active Duty. The first MREs were absolutely awful. Anybody else remember the dehydrated pork or beef patties? YUCKKKK! They were uniformly horrible ( BBQ beef, ham slice, wieners), until a few years ago they started adding ones with actual taste, like jamaican jerk pork, and so forth. Now they want to go back to the inedible bland menus, because the percieve it to be "comforting"? Are they high? If you are cold, lonely, and a long way from home, a plastic envelope of several year old eggs will not make you feel any better. I want more spicy foods in the field, not less. ( At least they do include a tiny bottle of hot sauce.)
    • In my previous life as a defense contractor, some reservists brought some MREs in to the lab... This was right when they came out, replacing the K-Rations (C-Rations?). They were totally nasty. Including the Spaghetti&Meatballs...
    • by reaper20 ( 23396 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @01:09AM (#3056035) Homepage
      I hate the fact that most Army units get screwed and are only given MREs for long periods of time.

      I served as an OPFOR Support Platoon Leader at the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, CA. Unfortuantely for guys like you, the chains-of-command of visiting units (especially Guard units) were too lazy to bother to get hot food, and would just go for an entire 3-4 weeks on MRE-only for their soldiers because its an easy out. Don't take this as an accusation or anything against you and your unit, I just think its a shame that the Army has spent millions of dollars working on ways to get fresh food for Joe, and most leaders choose to just use MREs.

      The US Army has mobile kitchens, and tons of creative ways of getting hot chow to soldiers, unfortunately most of the officers are too lazy to coordinate that kind of support.

      Now there is a difference when training for war and just being stupid, but after an extended period of time, the nutrition of troops becomes highly important. MREs are meant as a supplement to regular meals - we usually went Hot-MRE-Hot for Break/Lunch/Dinner, for normal missions, and used that as a baseline.

      Naturally that changes according to the mission, but you'd be suprised at how many REMFS (Rear-echelon motherfuckes) would rather say "We'll go all-MRE" because they are too lazy to plan hot food for their soldiers.
      • I was wounded for life during my 1st NTC rotation. I was with a mechanized infantry battalion. We brought bunches of T-rats (think really big family-size metal boxes of food).

        After our first week, the only T-rats that we had left were (1) barbecue pork and (2) rice. For the next two weeks it was BBQ and rice for lunch and dinner. It was literally years before I would eat barbecued anything.
    • WHAT?! You dare denigrate the dehydrated pork patty, mister? There was a "#1" on that package for a reason!

      Admittedly, you couldn't eat it dry and like it (tasted like cardboard and chalk-dust). (But it was still better than the slime-encrusted weiners).

      Like most of the first generation MREs, the blessed pork patty required preparation...fill the little plastic baggy about a third full with water and let it rehydrate...throw in some of your cheese-spread, a crumbled up cracker, and some tobasco. UMMM, good! The best MRE of all time (at least until I got out in '97).

      Of course, in those days, we weren't lucky enough to get individual bottle of tobasco...it was just one big bottle to the case of MREs. Then they started putting individual bottles in *some* MREs. It wasn't until generation three or four that all MREs came with hot sauce.

      (And does anyone remember the short-lived dehydrated strawberries? They were even better than the dehydrated pears. Sadly, they were only packed in chicken a la king and chicken stew for a short time in generation two).

      If you have to talk about BAD MREs, let's talk about omelette with ham...or maybe tuna with noodles (the only saving grace was that it came with the chocolate nut cake -- the absolute finest piece of MRE cuisine ever).

      I'd better stop now before I get all worked up.
  • Check out this place [majorsurpl...rvival.com] offering the "freshest" MRE's.

    MMM... There nothing quite like Fresh MRE's! :)

  • MRE Trivia (Score:2, Funny)

    by Agar ( 105254 )
    Back in the day, before flavor was engineered to survive a 3 year shelf life, MREs were fondly referred to as "Meals Rejected by Ethiopians."

    Anyone know other trivia?
  • Mine, Canadian Army, hers, American Navy. Cousin who is a marine, another a helicopter pilot, and a third a technician.

    The cousin who is a marine is also a vegan. Yah - hilarious - the vegan marine. She is in Afghanistan right now - wonder what the hell she eats. No dairy, no eggs, no seafood, no poultry, and no meat.

    I was a vegan for a few years - pretty tough to find food in a supermarket that has no dairy. Imagine what it's like when your food comes in a grey plastic bag.
    • Vegan meals in a bag (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Animats ( 122034 )
      The "Humanitarian Daily Ration" [dla.mil] is vegan. "The components are designed to provide a full day's sustenance to a moderately malnourished individual. In order to provide the widest possible acceptance from the variety of potential consumers with diverse religious and dietary restrictions from around the world, the HDR contains no animal products or animal by-products, except that minimal amounts of dairy products are permitted."
  • C-Rations (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Saturday February 23, 2002 @01:22AM (#3056068) Homepage
    Does anybody else remember C-Rations? They were the predecessor of MREs. They came in a cardboard box, full of little OD green cans. You haven't lived until you have eaten Ham and Eggs, cold, out of a can. See Army Chow and Other War Atrocities [jophan.org] by David Thayer, for a look at Army chow in the pre-MRE era.
    • They also came with cigarettes and had delightful nicknames, such as "Shit-on-a-Shingle".

      Of course, I'm just glad they got rid of "Chicken-a-la-Shit"

      MRE (Meal Ready to Eat): Three lies for the price of one!

      And don't forget MRE babies: you don't take a dump for three days, beacuse of the preservatives. When you do, it comes out square, like the damn box...
    • Oh man.

      Ham and Eggs is the only one I even remember.

      That, and the "chocolate" air-hockey pucks.

  • In canada we typically call them REM's (Ready to eat meals) or Individual Meal Packs (IMPs) however it is a similar idea.

    The difference however, is that the Canadian ones taste GOOD. You usually get:
    1. Your main meal. (things like mac and cheese, stew, salsbary steak, chicken, chili etc)
    2. Tea.
    3. Coffee
    4. Hot Choclate
    5. Choclate Bar
    6. Some kinda fruit based destert
    7. A little bread loaf
    8. Peanut butter, jam, salt/pepper and sometimes spices
    9. Some bonus items like instant mashed potatoes, instant dressing..

    I remember really enjoying these things. I believe they had a shelf life of about 4-5 years.

    *mmms just thinking about them*

    BTW. I think I enjoyed them more then the hot food we sometimes got shipped while were in the bush.
    • The Canadian Meals Ready to Eat(MRE) are actually sold commercially under the brand name Magic Pantry.

      They have one called Ham and Egg omlet which is not bad if you are really hungry.

      The best is using the gravey from the salsbury steak package to make the instant mashed potatoes.

      I do miss the old canned rations with the canned ham and canned bacon. The bad thing about these new rations is that you need water. The old cans you could put on the engine of your truck to heat up.
  • The breakfast versions of the Canadian Forces IMP (Individual Meal Pack) has contained Macaroni and cheese since at least the 1980s, and although it is no longer available now they also served a mean "ham & egg omlette". For anyone who has seen this notorious "omlette" it was like a compressed rubber sponge in a foil packet with ham floating at the bottom. Some people despised it, I thought it was rather good. I also know that the shelf life of these meals was 3 years. Maybe the cold up here helps them keep longer.

    If you want to get a good idea of what the Canadian meals are like, check out the bottom of this page [shauny.org]. MREs and the number each soldier gets a day vary greatly from country to country. No shitting but the French get pate de fois gras and a little wine in their rations, although they only get one box of rations for the whole day.

    Canucks get 3 packs a day, each worth between 2500 and 3000 calories (soldiering takes a lot of energy), similar to the Americans they are rather formulaic in there content but much more substantial: the first foil pouch contains a main course (chili con carne, chicken breast, even cabbage rolls to please the Albertans), the dessert pouch (sliced peaches, pinapple spears, or the nasty cherry cake) follows, but the best part shall always remain the "goodie pack". Not only will it include the strangest brick of bread you've ever seen, it is also guaranteed to contain various condiments, juice crystals, soup, coffee, tea sugar and whitener, lifesavers (oh the irony), an after dinner mint (yes, really), a toothpick and either a candy bar or cookies. You can also expect to find matches, an industrial strength napkin, a long neck spoon (so your fingers don't get dirty) and best of all, a moist towlet (field shower is the other term that comes to mind). Much more substantial than the Americans but still lacking both the infamous bottle of tobasco sauce and the self heating pouch.

    IMPs also include a survey as to how you liked your meal, a great bit of fun to fill out when your bored in the field. I can proudly say that because of my input they added mini-Ritz crackers and mini-Oreo cookies to the array of snacks that come with any ration pack. Whenever a Canadian soldier stuck in the mud or snow of the ubiquitous "field" looks into his/her ration pack and smiles to see they got mini-ritz cheese sandwiches rather than the instant (and useless) chocolate pudding that I helped contribute to that smile.

    • Oh yeah. Those French rations are fantastic. For some bizarre reason, they would trade them to us for MREs. (Well, at least once for any given individual). I think they did it so they could go back and laugh at the poor Americans.
  • FYI (Score:2, Informative)

    by antisocial77 ( 74255 )
    If you put an MRE heater in a snapple bottle full of water and screw the lid back on the snapple bottle will explode.
  • I'm not a military man, so I may just be talking out of my ass here, but what's wrong, exactly, with rice? I mean, it packs light, lots of carbohydrates and vitamins, easy and quick to cook, and can be flavored (and taste good to boot) with anything from plain old salt to spicy cajun jambalaya and chinese mixes (and of course meats and veggies when they are available). How long does an MRE take to heat up? A tin can full of water, and handfull of rice, dump in a few spices, shred a few sticks of beek jerky and in under seven minutes I've made myself a high energy, hot meal that tastes great.

    Maybe I just don't understand the logistics of it, but I would think if I was given a choice of carrying around a 5 lbs package of MRE's that will last me a couple of days vs. a 5 lbs bag of rice that will last me weeks, I would have to go with the rice...
    • Rice doesn't carry 3Kcal in the equivalent space. Plus, for rice to have any flavor, you also have to hump in your "eleven herbs and spices." And let's not forget that many soldiers aren't exactly Wolfgang Puck.

      MREs on the other hand, are tasty, filling (to the point that you'll stay filled...for days), and anyone from the densest jarhead to the laziest wing-wiper can fill the heater pack to the line and warm up their food. Failing that, PFC Ugg can just tear open the pouch and chow down (I personally preferred my MREs cold -- especially tuna noodle casserole); how's your uncooked rice taste? Too, you aren't building any cook fires that could give your position away.

      And the best reason of all for choosing MREs, rice will only make birds explode, whereas the heater pack reactants can make damn near anything into an instant Weapon of Terror(TM).

    • This does sound like how the Japanese army in WWII was fed -- or at least how British commanders claimed they must have been fed, after their commands were overrun by Japanese troops that just popped out of the jungle, with none of the vast supply train required by western forces. However, I very much doubt that this was their entire food supply -- a complaint that applies to virtually all armies in the field is that little livestock remains after they have passed, and the Imperial Japanese Army is alleged to have taken that to extremes.

      Aside from needing meat and other supplements, the problem with rice for troops in the field is that cooking rice does take time, water, and fire -- there are many times it can't be done. The IJA probably just trained the troops to tough it out when food couldn't be prepared -- or to snatch a chicken and eat it raw. This is not such great policy in the long run, you lose troops to medical problems.

      Remember, Wellington got the cooks up in the middle of the night before Waterloo to ensure that his troops started the day with a full hot meal -- and always claimed that this was the margin of victory, it gave the troops the strength to hang on a couple of extra hours until Blucher finally arrived. Considering the conditions for shipping and cooking food in the field in 1813 (or was it 1814?), these meals were probably a lot worse than MRE's. (And I've eaten MRE's at their worst.) But they were nutritionally complete meals, which rice isn't...

      The absolute worst scheme for provisioning an army, ever, was probably Sparta's. Boys started military training at something like 6. They were never fed. They had to steal food, with severe beatings if they got caught. Spartan commanders didn't have to worry about supplies, but I suspect that Sparta's allies would have been very reluctant to have Spartan armies cross their territories...
  • I hear that they've had some problems the past few years recruiting people into the military. This may have to do with the fact that all those people in 97-99 who would otherwise join the army instead became web developers, but I digress...

    So this is probably a recruiting pitch. Can you see it now?

    Join the Army!
    Eat Macaroni & Cheese!

    Definatly inspires me to want to join and get shot at in some foreign country...

    • It's been that way since the military went all-volunteer.

      When the economy is doing good and there are jobs available, the military has trouble recruiting. When the economy soured in 2000, and especially after 9-11, recruiting became easier.
  • This is the same WSU that invented a cheese canning process during WWII for military purposes. You can still order it from their creamery in assorted flavors [wsu.edu]. The Cougar Gold in particular is good; it's the only cheddar-type cheese I know of that is aged for a full year.

  • I bought some MREs off a survivalist website just to see what they were like. Most of the stuff was tasteless/bland/pure sugar, but edible. The main course in each case, however, was utterly rancid and inedible. I tried one bite of the "teriyaki beef" and nearly lost everything else I'd already eaten. That was the worst. I feel truly sorry for the armed forces having to eat this crap. No wonder the Afghanis wouldn't eat the MREs the US dropped on them.

    It seems like a joke for them to try to figure out how to include eggs and such when it seems clear they have quite a bit of work to do to even make the current MREs better than dog food.
    • I haven't been in the military myself nor eaten an MRE, but I'm thinking that working your ass off on a real or simulated battlefield would certainly make any food taste better at the end of a day!

      Most ex-military types I've talked to have said the same thing. While they weren't exactly raving about MRE's, they said you'd be suprised at what tastes good after the 10th consecutive hardest day of your life.
  • Accomodating troops' nutritional needs and providing a semblance of gastronomic comfort has been a problem even further back than the C rations in Vietnam. For example, here [marauder.org] is a site describing the K rations used in the field.

    For what it's worth, some Army cooks were able to work wonders with not much more than this kind of stuff. Dad, an Ordnance Corps guy, one day came across an infantry outfit in a not-all-that-rear area that was getting fed from a field kitchen that definitely had its act together -- Dad was awed that the cooks had even made soup and baked some fresh bread. It had to have been the first real meal these dogfaces had eaten since they'd gone into the line in France.

Someday somebody has got to decide whether the typewriter is the machine, or the person who operates it.