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The Military Science Idle

Military Labs Develop Caffeinated Jerky and "Zapplesauce" 151

A military research facility outside Boston has come up two new super foods for MREs (Meal, Ready to Eat). Soon soldiers will able to stay awake during guard duty thanks to caffeinated meat sticks. They'll have the energy for extended patrols from a "super-charged" applesauce. From the article: "'There is a lot of science that goes into this,' said David Accetta, a spokesman for the Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center, where every item put into an MRE is tested and tasted. 'And that’s what a lot of people don’t realize. It’s not just a bunch of cooks in the kitchen making up recipes.'”
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Military Labs Develop Caffeinated Jerky and "Zapplesauce"

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  • by Faw ( 33935 ) on Monday October 31, 2011 @02:01PM (#37897640)

    “I’m never gonna get used to the 31st century. Caffeinated bacon? Baconated grapefruit? ADMIRAL Crunch?”
    Fry, Futurama

  • Anything that starts with a Z reminds me of Halloween.
  • Or as the veterans I know who were familiar with them call them:

    Meals, Rarely Edible.
    • The shocking thing is that there was apparently someone somewhere who thought a cook was involved in preparing MREs. This person, like Tom Lehrer's mess sergeant, probably has his tastebuds shot off in the war...

      That said, the desserts aren't too bad, although mainly because they are 90% sugar...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        actually the meals are fairly good, probably because a MRE meal has 1,250 calories [], nearly 200 calories more than a McDonald's Big Mac Meal. [] Not hard to make something taste decent when you're shoving it full of calories.

      • by kryliss ( 72493 )

        I used to love the BBQ pork and rice, Ham slice and the Corned Beef Hash MREs. One was smart to save their Tobasco sauce from the good packs to use when you got stuck with something like.... Omlete pack number 1......

        USMC 1990-1994

        • by Gilmoure ( 18428 )

          Yeah, when we had to pull out after Desert Storm, we had a pile of Omelet packs left over (all gone through for any good stuff). They burned with a green/black smoke. Weird!

          USAF '87-'94

          • During OIF I, I made the grievous error of saying that #4, Country Captain Chicken, wasn't that terrible. After a few days of my coworkers selflessly saving the #4 for me while they got first pick on a new box, I quickly recanted.

        • Mix that with the omelete, add Tobasco, not bad.

          I had a large collection of saved MRE pieces to make my recipes. For example, crush a cracker, add jelly, creamer and sugar, mix, flatten, let bake in the sun for a while, you have a Pop Tart.

    • And and here I always thought it stood for Meals Rejected by Ethiopians.
    • Re:MRE (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday October 31, 2011 @04:29PM (#37899770) Homepage Journal

      I think it's a bit like the uncanny valley. MREs are close enough to regular food that you focus on the differences between them and freshly prepared food. They really aren't bad for something that can be eaten after sitting on the shelf unrefrigerated for years, being exposed to temperatures ranging from -60F to +120F, then dropped 100 feet.

      The old C-rations left no doubt as to what they were about. It was quite obvious the only reason anyone would willingly consume a C-ration was that the alternative was death by starvation. It also weighed 5.5 lb, as opposed to 1lb 2oz - 1lb 10oz for a modern MRE. K rations were so bad that even the prospect of starvation wasn't enough. Men in one unit lost an average of 35 pounds living on them and contracted pellagra and beriberi. According to one report, soldiers who'd been forced to survive on K-rations would vomit at the mere sight of a K ration box afterwards.

      No prepackaged meals have ever been as good as even mediocre fresh cooking. Yet people still buy frozen dinners and freeze-dried camping food. MREs seem to be in the same range as that stuff. You wouldn't want to live on them, but they sure beat starvation.

    • Freeze-dried pork patties, four fingers of death ("frankfurters"), freeze-dried fruit cocktail brick, brown packet of coffee powder, no Tobasco, no candy but two pseudo-Chicklets. The only thing really edible was the applesauce, but you had to get the dreaded pork patty meal to get it.

      Meal, Ready to Eat. Truly three lies for the price of one.

      In comparison, the modern MREs are quite good.

    • by tibman ( 623933 )

      We called them Mystery meals.. get it.. Mystery / Mr. E / MRE

  • Have you ever actually eaten an MRE? The things are 1200 calories or so, about 900 of those from raw sugar. What better way to get a bunch of teenagers to go out and kill people, than to get them all hopped up on a sugar high like a squad of heavily armed Cornholios? []. Caffeinated jerky fits right in.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Actually getting "hopped up on sugar" is a myth.

      People don't get more hyper-active after eating sugar- or if they do, it is not because of the sugar per-se than the stimulating environment that often surrounds times we eat sugar. Kids at b'day party get hyper because it is a b'day party- not because they ate cake.

      Most people (kids included) who don't have insulin-related problems don't undergo any kind of wild mood swings due to eating sugary foods.

      • you have obviously never been around children the day after Halloween, Easter, or Valentines day, try it some time will will quickly learn how wrong you are.

        • Further helping to support his claim that it has a lot to do with the events we associate with a so called sugar high. Those are all fun days for a kid, of course they're gonna be hyperactive, that's what kids do. At least until we teach them to plant their fat asses in front of an xbox for 8 hours a day.
        • It's a lot different when it has been scientifically proved wrong. Your experience with children has made you prejudiced. When you have a double blind test done with hundreds of kids, and sugar has zero effect on them no matter what race, age, disabilities, dietary intake, etc. then you can see that sugar does nothing to the human body unless you already have some horrible insulin related problem. Society has known about this since 1995, wake up.
      • People don't get more hyper-active after eating sugar- or if they do, it is not because of the sugar per-se than the stimulating environment that often surrounds times we eat sugar

        Having personally seen adults who used to "sugar speed", and the startling effects on their body ... I pretty much have to call bullshit on that one.

        I'm sure environment is also a factor, but I've pretty much seen it get ugly fast as someone who is very affected by sugar goes into warp-drive.

        It's not a catch all explanation, but I

        • That may be the case for that, and other individuals- but I have read articles where they have run tests in various scenarios on this subject: giving one group a placebo- one group nothing- and a third group sugar and noting that no overall difference in activity levels.

          There could have been a medical condition for the admin assistant- or it could have been an emotional thing- she was excited when eating the sugar- and got depressed when she no longer had it to look forwards to.

          I'm not sure if it is purely

    • by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Monday October 31, 2011 @02:13PM (#37897800)
      Dear Private Void,

      Eating an MRE has more of the effect of putting a solid brick in your bowels than getting you "hopped" up. The only raw sugar I encountered eating all the hundreds of MREs I've reluctantly consumed in my 7+ years active duty Marine Corps was the sugar packets that came with the instant coffee packets. There's also a candy of some sort, my favorite being a bag of M&Ms stating they are proud sponsors of the 1984 Olympics (this was in 1996). Anything new, tasty, and FSM forbid, energizing would be welcome.
      • Maybe you skipped the desserts? They may not be pure sugar, but they certainly taste like it...
      • How about the "Beverage Base Powder"? That's 90+% sugar (Kool-aid (tm) by any other name, I'd bet).

      • I had the EXACT same situation in 1996~97. I remember the 1984 Olympic M&M's, and they had turned white from the fat leeching out I guess. Yes, I ate them hehe
      • Re:Cornholio (Score:5, Interesting)

        by PFactor ( 135319 ) on Monday October 31, 2011 @02:39PM (#37898144) Journal
        As a former Marine myself (8 years active duty), I can attest that Oodaloop is right on the money. We used to call them Meals Rarely Excreted.

        As an aside, if you ever go to Korea (not Best Korea, the other one) the locals will trade you a bottle of Soju (rotgut liquor) for the main meal in your MRE.
      • the MRE's of today aren't the same ones they made in 1996.

        In fact there have been quite a few major differences. anyone who's last MRE was pre 2001 really shouldn't talk about it until they have tried the ones made since.

        That said, they are still going to sit like a lump of coal in your stomach.

        • I have had the new ones. I got out in 2003, and have gone downrange since then as well. They are better that what they used to be. Still not exactly high cuisine.
          • by MBC1977 ( 978793 )
            Oh come they are not that bad. lol The Cajun Rice, Beans and Sausage is actually quite good. lol (better then the chow hall some days). Not mention if you take the Spice Poundcake and the Spiced Apples, you get an Apple-Pie type treat (of course you have to ratfuck about 3 MREs but hey who's counting). hehe
        • One of the goals is to regulate you to once daily or at the most three every two days solid waste excretion. A situation in which you need MREs is not one in which you want all your buddies in the head.

    • or more realistically what better way to keep a chronically tired soldier alert so he doesn't get his ass shot off
    • by Quila ( 201335 )

      Have you ever actually eaten an MRE?

      More times than I care to remember. An MRE is about half carbohydrates, a mix of complex (the starches and breads common in MREs) and simple (sugar). It's there because it is the fuel for a soldier's physical exertions during the day.

  • by whoda ( 569082 ) on Monday October 31, 2011 @02:08PM (#37897728) Homepage

    My local store has caffeinated jerky, and has for awhile.

  • Baconated Grapefruit? Admiral Crunch?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It is delicious. I had some in Afghanistan last year. It tastes like regular applesauce, which is to say, delicious.

  • Next they'll find a way to put caffeine in coffee. That would work for me.
  • by Gazzonyx ( 982402 ) <scott DOT lovenberg AT gmail DOT com> on Monday October 31, 2011 @02:23PM (#37897948)
    Caffeine is an awesome drug. So long as your job doesn't ever consist of accurately firing a weapon or going long durations without peeing.
  • PICARD: But even when we wore costumes like that we'd already started to make rapid progress.

    Q: Oh yeah? You want to review your rapid progress?

    Q: Rapid progress, to where humans learned to control their military with drugs.

  • Um, how is the caffeinated jerky anything new? We've had it for years thanks to [] and until recently it was sold over at ThinkGeek.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday October 31, 2011 @02:28PM (#37898024) Journal
    I'm surprised that they'd be using caffeine: 1. It's already dirt cheap and readily available in a wide variety of convenient forms. Coffee(with varying tradeoffs between goodness and portability), tea(ditto), water, pills, assorted energy-shot things, etc, etc. It's a readily water-soluble alkaloid stimulant. Not hard to work with.

    Perhaps more importantly, caffeine is actually a mediocre alertness aid. In sufficient quantity it will prevent you from sleeping; but the jittery, dubiously-lucid, feeling that it provides isn't exactly "wakefulness". Not really a win for clear thinking or straight shooting. It seems like some exploration of Modafinil, or related drugs, if any, would be more productive.

    That stuff isn't nearly as readily available in already common, light, nonperishable forms, and when it prevents you from sleeping you just don't feel sleepy. The effect is uncanny.
  • OK, so instead of cold, tired, scared recruits with overpowered assault rifles standing guard in the dark of night we're going to have jittery, cold, tired, scared recruits with overpowered assault rifles standing guard in the dark of night. Lovely.

    • Oh we've had those for a long time; the old C ration coffee was great stuff. I'd save enough packets to make a sauce out of them and drink it up. About 30 to 40 minutes later I'd actually be so wired I felt I was vibrating. Good times.

    • by Gilmoure ( 18428 )

      overpowered assault rifles

      They've gone back to the .30-06?


    • A buddy of mine (a gunner) once had to stay awake on mission for 3 days while going through a particularly dangerous area of Afghanistan. Jittery or not, you MUST stay awake. If you don't, you can't protect your vehicle or the rest of the convoy at all. Caffeine hallucinations suck, but you can at least stay on task.

      Personally though, I only see a useful effect from caffeine from about a cup per 8 hours awake. If I work a ~30 hour shift (used to do it twice a week in garrison), the sixth or seventh co
  • Sounds like military research discovered 5150 ...

  • I've heard that the MRE acronym is jokingly explained as "Meal that Refuses to Exit." So, I hope they've taken care of that...

  • by RyoShin ( 610051 )

    As an active duty soldier, this doesn't really pump me up much. Most MREs include a packet of coffee or tea (which I think is caffeinated). True, those require some sort of water/container, but many MREs already have Ranger Bars, which are like those energy bars you can get at the grocery store (which work to varying degrees).

    Now, when they get rid of the Vegetarian Omelet MRE, then there will be some cheering.

    (Some MREs have other, ah, means of keeping you awake...)

  • by SomeoneGotMyNick ( 200685 ) on Monday October 31, 2011 @03:20PM (#37898744) Journal

    I was in one of the first training platoons in the Army which received the "newfangled" MREs instead of C-Rations. Although they were colloquially called "Meals Ready to Excrete" by the "early adopters" of such a technology of cuisine, it felt like they traveled at Mach 2 through the digestive system until the last "quarter mile" of the intestinal tunnel. Then they seemingly sat there for days.

    Much of the above activity was due to the famously known "Dehydrated Beef Patty" and "Dehydrated Pork Patty." No matter how much water you added to them, they went down like shredded corrugated cardboard, exhibiting the same gustatory and gastronomical effects.

  • This was pretty informative.

    The topic of food that is readily available, has shelf life, and is designed to give energy boosts -and don't taste like metal scraps. Nothing lowers morale like not eating well- is very interesting. I wonder if there are more articles giving more details on the process, pros and cons of proposed rations, and their energy values.

    I hope it's not a military secret or something like that, though.

    • As Napoleon said, "An army marches on its stomach".

      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

        As Napoleon said, "An army marches on its stomach".

        Especially when what the army had to march on ends up in their stomach, like when Napoleon's forces had to eat the leather from their shoes on the failed invasion of Russia.

  • by doug ( 926 )
    They just need milk plus to have a complete and balanced meal
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday October 31, 2011 @04:30PM (#37899796) Homepage

    MREs aren't all that bad if you can heat the entree. If not, they're not much fun.

    Go for the chicken-based entrees. "Pasta with Vegetables in Tomato Sauce" (discontinued in 2006), not so good. There are 24 different MREs in each year, and each case contains a semi-random selection. They're reliable survival food. Everyone should have a case or two around, just in case.

    The packaging is very tough. They can be dropped from an aircraft without a parachute, and at least 80% of the units should survive.

  • On a delicious meat stick that keeps you up all night.

  • My colon's been aware of the supercharging power of applesauce for decades.

  • better than Zappa Plays Zappa. Seriously, I'm surprised Gail Zappa hasn't tried to sue anybody who's trying to call their applesauce product "Zapplesauce".

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972