The 19FD-01-IRATs (Rations, Initial Deployment), or MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) are a self-contained meal developed by the U.S. military over many decades of warfare. Soldiers in the combat area of operations may endure deployment for weeks on end and need a readily available source of food when access to the conventional “mess hall” is not possible.
The MRE was intended to support the physical and mental strain and effort required from a well-trained soldier and therefore contain a healthy portion of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrition. Because, the MRE is designed for field operatives and use in combat zones it is packed tough. In the event of an airdrop, the MRE’s tough packaging and structural integrity will keep the food supply of an entire troop from being turned into a saucy mess splattered all over the landscape.
But, the MRE, such as one you can buy from Eversafe, has a host of other benefits and specifics that make it ideal to a host of modern needs and concerns. In the following article we will cover the top reasons to store MREs against a day when your regular food supplies may be unavailable for a large number of reasons.
Feeding an Army – The Story of the MRE
When opening and unpacking the contents of an MRE, one is naturally impressed with the level of ingenuity applied to an issue as old as humanity. Early humans were hunter gatherers and making the food supplies on hand last as long as possible meant the difference between a thriving community and one that would starve in the winter.
No aspect of human accomplishment has been more affected by the capacity to store and administer food supplies than the art of war. “Every army runs on its stomach”, is a concept that can’t be ignored when assembling the troops. The failure to observe this important military precept led to the defeat of General Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps at the battle of “El Alamein” and consequently the end of Axis occupation in Northern Africa.
On the other hand, those armies that held the superior technology in food rationing, quality and storage gained a significant upper hand in field combat as well. This was illustrated by Native American cultures and their capacity to produce Pemmican. Pemmican was a hearty mixture of dried meats, fruits and other ingredients that can last months. This allowed Sioux, Cherokee, Cree and Apache warriors a considerable advantage in executing long range maneuvers on the warpath.
The need for a suitable food supply to support the grueling life of a soldier was never more evident than in during the ghastly American Civil War. In addition to the terrifying prospect of canister rounds that could reduce an entire regiment of soldiers to a bloody mess, both Union and Confederate troops faced interminable months of indigestible diet plans. Meals consisted of salted meat boiled to leathery straps and the side of hardtack biscuits was a suitable substitute for grape shot.
It was evident that a suitable solution was needed and by the time the First World War broke out, Doughboys were carrying rations in tin cans and the situation, at least as far as the food supplies were concerned, was looking up.
The MRE Solution
The MRE was entered in to the US Department of Defense’s plans for rations in 1978 and has seen some great advances since then.
As mentioned, the MRE has been designed to fully support military operations. Thus, MREs have exceptional durability to endure the rigors and mistreatment of unpredictable terrain and strain in various locations across the globe.
Airdrops are frequently used to resupply operatives in the field and it is hard to predict exactly where the parachute will alight. Should the parachute land in the top of a tree and need to be pulled down to access the contents, the drop will not damage the specially prepared MREs inside.
They are also long-lasting and can endure many months and even years sitting in a cool storage unit with no loss of nutritional value or flavor. In proper storage, MREs may last as long as decade or more.
MRE’s provided to operatives in the field typically contain a FRH which uses water to heat the entrees found inside. The lack of flame ensure safety from forest fires and a warm meal behind enemy lines without giving away your position with a smoke signal.
The Technology Behind the MRE
As mentioned, the food supplies sustaining an active military will be a deciding factor in their overall capacity to wage war. There are specially prepared military rations like the MRE produced by many different militaries across the world and show a fascinating array of culinary practices in extreme conditions.
Not many military secrets are made public and the special ingredients and productions methods practiced by military contractors are no exception. Nevertheless, military grade MREs are available to the public and a careful inspection will allow us to unravel some clues as to the cutting-edge technology we see exhibited in the MRE.
Food Preparation and Preservation
There’s pickling, dehydration, salts, smokes and many other ways to prepare foods so they will withstand the onslaughts decompositions and maintain their nutritional values. No matter which method you choose to prepare foods for long storage the goals all remain the same.
The most important thing to do is kill all the bacteria and enzymes present in the food. Cooking foods accomplished this quite well. Foods which have been heated to over 150°F / 66°C have almost all these harmful bacteria removed, and this is why prepared meals are found in the MRE rather than raw veggie salads.
After the foods have been cooked and the bacteria removed, they need to be prepared in a way that bacteria or enzyme activities are neutralized. Salts, oils, sterilization and many other techniques can be applied depending on the dish being prepared. Freeze drying foods is another way to prepare foods for extended storage and was applied to the space programs.
Th problems with freeze dried foods for military operations was the large quantity of water required to properly use these foods.
Top Quality Food Storage
After food preparation, the correct packaging had to be selected to encase the contents of the MRE. The right packaging will keep air and bacteria out and allow the prepared foods to last long periods of time in proper storage. But, the packaging for the MRE had to do more than this.
Up until recently, the best methods of keeping food free from bacterial that will cause spoilage was placing foods in cans and jars. Jars would not endure the rigors of an air drop and were not practical for military usage. Then, both these options are notoriously heavy and a soldier bogged just a day’s supplies of food in cans will not be able to carry the equipment needed to perform their duties.
So, the tri-laminate tort pouch was selected for its perfect suitability to the task. The tri-laminate options have all the benefits of both jars and cans and none of the structural and weight issues that make them unsuitable for the battlefield.
Tri-laminate packaging is highly durable and can be dropped from heights more than 90 ft. from nothing but cold hard concrete and then picked up and enjoyed by the advancing or defending grunts.
Tri-laminate packaging works in the same way as cans or jars in that completely isolate the contents of the pouch from exterior elements. The pouch itself is made of composite metallic and plastic materials that form an effective protective barrier from enzymes and bacteria that can begin spoiling the food.
It should be noted that the flavor arrays have taken a secondary priority to the needs of a healthy and above all long-lasting food supply. The through cooking does much to equalize textures and flavors. But, it should be noted that the flat dimensions of the MRE require much less sterilization cooking and this suggests the foods in MREs reserve more texture and flavor than canned or jarred foods.
Why Should You Hoard MREs?
The MRE is a veritable pinnacle of human ingenuity and practical provision. Even though it was originally designed for military application, like the Internet, it has found its way to be especially useful to a wide variety of civilian purposes as well.
The MRE represents the most accessible meal solutions that can be accessed readily in times of need. A convenient supply of MREs on hand can be the perfect way to introduce some convenience to a situation where conventional cooking may be difficult. Furthermore, MREs on hand can mean the difference between worrying and fretting about your next meal, and addressing other considerations when emergencies leave you cut off from regular food supplies.
Why are MREs the Best Food Storage Solution
MREs are a cut above every other food storage solutions for many different reasons. The most important of which is its long shelf life that can last years or months depending on various factors such as the sources from which you acquire your MREs and the conditions and ages of the contents when they arrive –- something we will discuss in depth further in the article.
MREs are better than Canned Foods – because canned foods are especially heavy and bulky to store and useless in a serious emergency in which you must move or act fast, taking with you the skin of your teeth and the bare essentials. MREs also last a bit longer than canned foods if found from reputable sources and stored in good conditions.
MREs are better than Freeze Dried Foods – because freeze dried foods only last about two years. Freeze dried foods are light and space saving, but without considerable amounts of water, you will not be able to consume them. Those storing freeze-dried foods are advised to store excess amounts of water as fresh water is one of the first utilities to go when the city systems go on the blink. MREs don’t require water, salt, fire, can opener, pepper mill, carving knife or anything else to prepare – just open and follow the instructions to a meal in under 3 minutes.
Finally, your MRE’s will survive considerable punishment. If they need to be strapped to the back of an ATV and hauled up the side of a mountain –– falling numerous times along the way –– your clan will still have a hearty meal at the end of the day. This is not easy to say for most other foods available.
What Will You Find Inside an MRE
Inside the Meal Ready to Eat is a meal, or sometimes three meals, that are indeed ready to eat. A single meal will typically feature a caloric content as high as 1000 to 1200 per meal. This is typically divided into a three-course meal including an entrée, main course and desert with coffee, tea and an electrolyte beverage selection.
There are many varieties of main course from Spicy Chipotle Chili, Tuscan Beef and Chicken and Rice. These are only a few as more and more varieties are being tested and perfected each day. You should know that vegetarian and vegan MREs are not unheard of but may take some shopping to find at a good price.
After the hearty main course is a dessert and these can be as good as it gets in a foxhole with sharpshooters taking potshots in your direction. You may be lucky enough to get cobbler pie or a stimulating and energizing slab of brownie. After this there is a snack which could be crackers and peanut butter with jelly.
To heat the main course to the status of a “hot meal” the MRE contains an ingenious flameless ration heater, or FRH. This is like an envelope into which your unopened-packaged meal is placed with a little water to get the reaction going. After a minute or two your food will be warm enough to open and enjoy, the utensils required for devouring the contents of the package are also included with salt and pepper envelopes.
After your repast, you can wipe your hands clean with an alcohol wipe and chew a piece of sugar free gum to ensure your dental hygiene remains unscathed.
Who Would Get the Most Value from and MRE?
Military operatives may be the most obvious answer, but this article is about the peaceful application of MREs to surviving in the unpredictable and adventurous modern age. Following are some of the civilian demographics that would be benefited from a reliable supply of food as found in the MRE.
– Avid Outdoor Adventurers
Those that like to spend days and even weeks exploring the great outdoors on foot or bicycle will find MREs to be one of the most convenient food sources for the trip. A family trip into the wilderness is a great opportunity to introduce the younger generations to the wonders of foraging for berries, fishing and surviving in the wild. But, having a plan B is another important lesson and in case the fishing expedition turns up empty handed, MREs will ensure no one gets a lesson in controlling hunger pangs.
MRE’s are lightweight and can be hauled around on hunting, camping, hammock and long-distance adventures of all types. Even with Eagle Scout level survival skills it can be tiring to get a meal started after a long day. So, after the cliff hanging, hiking and mountain climbing come to a rest, pop open the MREs and dinner is served.
– Preppers for Emergency Preparations
The future is uncertain and the end could be just around the corner, this is why a good portion of the population has dedicated their lives to preparing for any eventuality. From hurricanes, volcanoes and earthquakes to riots, terrorism and nuclear meltdowns, we can’t get through a decade without some new catastrophe.
Each time one of these hiccoughs disrupts the established systems that bring food water and power to our homes, someone is going to suffer. But it isn’t going to be the one with the smart contingency plan. More often than not such emergencies are small and rare and a little solidarity can ensure that all needs are met.
But when the situations get rough and the crisis drags on, food shortages can be one of the most volatile conditions to strike a crisis zone. This is where a closet dedicated to a few months or a full year’s supply of nutritional value can make a big difference.
Military or Civilian MREs –– What’s the Best Choice for You?
There is a problem that many preppers and MRE consumers will face when looking into the various options on the market, this is whether or not to choose military or civilian manufacturers when selecting MREs.
This problem originates because those military contractors that produce MREs are not allowed to make their products available to the public. There are still many ways to obtain MREs through military surplus outlets and other available sources, but this is not a viable source to provide for a potentially demanding public and other sources soon stepped up to fill the growing need.
Today there are a wide selection of MREs being produced by civilian manufacturers for the general public. And this has increased their popularity across many lines of work and pleasure. But many people wonder what the better option would be in looking for a superior product.
There was a time when the military MRE was by far the more superior of the two options. This was the same in terms of durability, shelf life and the general enjoyment of the eating experience. Back then there were limited options when selecting this product. The contents and food stuffs themselves had yet to undergo key adjustments that would make the food more palatable.
Today this has changed and there are a good many commercial producers of MREs that supply a great variety of durable and long-lasting food options. Some of the better manufacturers include Wornick and Ameriqual, which can be considered on par with military grade rations in every way.
What to Look for when Deciding Between Civilian and Military MREs
When making a selection for your needs as a consumer you will want to carefully scan the contents of any civilian MREs you hope to purchase. The labels will contain an overview of the meals included, the additional contents available and the total calorie count. Most military spec MREs have a calorie count at around 1200, you should look for MREs that also contain a high number of calories.
There are many MREs produced by both military and commercial producers that contain a day’s supply, or three full meals, in a single pack. You may find that the contents can be very different between MREs made by different producers so take the time to scan the contents and check for cutlery, condiments, FRHs (Flameless Ration Heaters), and anything else.
Bonus Points on the Civilian MRE
There are some other points that should be considered when making the decision between Military or Civilian MREs.
Price – You may find that prices vary depending on where you are buying your military MREs. But, you will find that your civilian MREs are always going to cost more. But, this may not be a case where you want to take the cheaper path.
Quality – Even though they are a bit more expensive, the civilian MRE has a predictable quality. The military ME is going to be tough and durable but have you any idea of what that package you are about to buy has been through. Was it hauled through swamps in a Black Ops Mission through the Ebola infested jungles of an undisclosed location in Africa? Or maybe allowed to get nice and toasty for a few days while awaiting shipment on some VTOL airfield in the hot Okinawa sun? At least with the civilian option you will have the dates and times that let you know exactly when your MRE was made and how long it will last.
Reliable/ Responsible Vendors – When buying from a civilian manufacturer of MREs, you can work out any issues with your product in a decent manner and there is a chance that you can get your money back if a product proves defective. If you are purchasing military MREs you will just have to happy with what you get.