Guide to the Different Types of MREs

The MRE, or “Meal Ready to Eat,” is a self-contained individual ration of food in a lightweight container that was first offered to personnel by the US Department of Defense. that has gained popularity among regular people who see the importance of being ready in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. However, despite having military antecedents, they are not much like the tinned meat that was provided to soldiers throughout the majority of the 20th century.

These days, an MRE could be anything from spaghetti and meat sauce to chicken burritos, lentil stew, cheese tortellini, or any of several other scrumptious, wholesome dishes. Additionally, they are precooked, highly portable, come in lightweight vacuum-sealed packets, and are edible for up to 5 years.

Bigos (hunter's stew) with sausage of MRE.

What Are MREs?

MREs contain food, much of it has been severely processed and canned; some of it has even been freeze-dried. They are designed to have an incredibly long shelf life. Each MRE comes with a range of ingredients packed into a self-contained pouch. You receive a meal that includes meat, vegetables, carbs, a fruit or dessert source, a mix for an electrolyte or energy drink, and a cup of coffee or another beverage (or drink mix in older MREs). Spaghetti, chicken and noodles, rice and beans, chicken burrito bowls, spinach fettuccine, and hash browns with bacon and potatoes are some of the MRE food options.

All MREs come with a heating source, and they may be heated with a little bit of water and the flameless ration heater package, which contains a few basic ingredients: magnesium, iron, and simple sodium chloride. The instructions are on each heating element. Water adds an electrical charge that quickly raises food temperature to 100 degrees.

A Brief History of MREs

Soldiers used to consume a variety of foods while on the march, some of which were not particularly favored, before the invention of the MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat). Reserve rations, or field meals, were given to soldiers in 1900 and consisted of a biscuit and a single pound of dehydrated beef. As a result, there was a nutritional shortage, which led to the creation of the C ration in 1938. A C ration was a meal that was prepared, contained, and canned for limited consumption.

A few years later, the C ration evolved into the MCI (Meal Combat Individual), an improved version of the original food. Even though many soldiers despised it, it was nevertheless in use until 1983, when the MRE came into being. Notably, 1975 saw the production of the first MRE. 

The MRE started being produced on a large basis in 1975, but the first deliveries weren’t made there until years later. Since then, a dietitian has made various modifications to MRE to increase its acceptance. In 1986, several tests resulted in higher acceptance and consumption.

Suitable Nutrients in MREs

Contrary to popular belief, MREs are a very good source of calories and nourishment. MREs are a wonderful meal replacement option because they are made with sustainability in mind, but it doesn’t mean they should replace regularly produced freshly prepared meals. Military MREs are designed with critical vitamins, nutrients, and enough calories for soldiers engaged in war. Having MREs on hand in your emergency bag can give you the sustenance you need should a natural disaster restrict your access to supplies and fresh food.

Where Can You Get MREs?

MREs are not difficult to obtain. MREs are classified into two types: military MREs and civilian MREs. Civilian MREs are essentially the same as military MREs and are frequently manufactured by the same companies. The main distinctions are in the packaging and the contents.

 A military MRE includes everything in a civilian MRE plus Tabasco, chewing gum, and toilet paper. The packaging differs in that it carries a disclaimer stating that the articles are official military supplies and are not for resale. It is vital to note that purchasing or selling authentic military MREs is unlawful. However, there are still options for veterans and service members to obtain them.

How Long Will MREs Last?

As previously stated, the average shelf life is roughly five years, and civilian MREs are designed to last longer than military MREs depending on the temperature and moisture in which they are stored. In general, the hotter it is, the shorter the shelf life. There are some MREs out in the field that is being consumed long after the Julian date (more than 5 years), however, purchasing these is not advised. Even if soldiers don’t always have the opportunity, cook your food before eating it, even if it’s with the flameless heating pouch contained in the MRE kit.

If you were a military member, you probably know that these expiration dates are dictated in MREs but in general, civilian MREs have a longer shelf life due to the atmosphere in which they are stored.

How to Consume MREs?

The entire dinner is prepared to be eaten, except the beverages. The entree can be prepared in several ways, including immersion in hot water while still sealed in its separate entree packaging, though it can also be consumed cold when operationally essential. Each meal bag now has a flameless ration heating mechanism that heats the entree since mid-1992.

Emergency survival food set on dark wooden kitchen table

MREs in the Modern World

The MRE option is are very useful since it enables individuals to obtain food without having to go through the typical preparation process. Earthquakes, war, and other crises and disasters are common, necessitating an emergency reaction to keep up with the situation. The MRE package’s components have been improved by various sectors to be more palatable to diverse demographic groups. 

While it is true that MREs are excellent food, it is crucial to remember that if you store them in a greenhouse or a car in warm weather, you should eat them within a month. It is not advised to consume anything but MREs three times a day, seven days a week for months on end, but they can certainly come in handy in a disaster or survival situation.