The MRE is actually a prime example of human ingenuity and enterprise when faced with an age-old problem. Since times immemorial the fact that foodstuffs rapidly decompose and convert to food for enzymes and microorganisms in our environment has plagued humanity and scotched many important military campaigns that could’ve changed the world as we know it.
Feeding an Army
Every army runs on its stomach, says the old adage and the plans for any military exercise have always been stringent on a general capacity to keep his grunts well fed while in the field. This was accomplished with varying degrees of success and soldiers equipped with longer lasting food supplies as the Native Americans had with Pemmican, had a significant advantage in long-range recon.
During the Civil War, feeding the Union or Confederate Army meant subjecting the weary soldier to endless months of salted meat boiled to obscurity and possibly a side of hardtack, a biscuit so hard it also served as a substitute for grapeshot.
Obviously, the needs were great, and it wasn’t long till the world’s leading military powers were searching for improved methods of sustaining their troops in combat.
Enter the MRE
The MRE is an entire meal, or sometimes day’s rations of meals, that has been specially packaged and prepared to endure the rigors of the battlefield and the attrition of time sitting on a shelf with no loss of flavor or nutritional value. It has been estimated that an MRE can last as many as 5 years before the contents have succumbed to the passing of time and are no longer edible.
When dropped from great heights, such as a parachute drop, the MRE remains intact and can still live out its full life as well. The overall goal to provide soldiers with healthy nutrition to sustain their brave efforts on the field has been accomplished.
The US Military tends to be very hush-hush about their operations and weren’t thrilled to hand over their MRE recipes and production methods to our seasoned researchers when producing this investigatory expo. But, this doesn’t mean we can’t deduce their food processing methods by looking at the results in comparison to some of the most advanced food processing methodologies available today.
Top of the Line Food Preparation and Storage Methods
Food Preparation and Preservation
Food preservation is an art and a science and we have gotten very good at making sure the fruits and meats of our labors endure. From Pickling and Pasteurizing to Canning and Carbonation, the varying methods of preserving food all share a few simple goals.
- To slow down the bacteria that seeks to turn food into rotting waste
- To kill all bacteria present
This can be done by seeking out the enzymes present in all foods that begin the spoilage process almost as soon as the foods are prepared. This can be done by heating foods to higher than 150°F / 66°C. Sterilization is another way to remove all enzymes and bacteria from foods and increase their longevity and storage life.
Food preparation is only half the problem, the proper temperatures and storage containers will be needed to prevent bacteria that exists in the environment from affecting the prepared foods. Jars, cans and the cutting-edge tri-laminate retort pouch are all ways in which prepared foods can be safely stored for future use safe from the air and elements that seek to spoil it.
Until recently, placing this prepared food in jars and cans option was the best way to store food. Jars would never survive a parachute jump, and canned food is notoriously heavy. Not something a fleet-footed grunt should be lugging through trenches and foxholes.
Tri-laminate tort pouches function practically the same as both these options with none of their disadvantages. Packed in this intelligent wrapping material food rations are lightweight and will withstand the impact of being dropped from over 90 ft. onto nothing but cold concrete and still feed the advancing troops.
While we generally assume tinned or canned food is metallic and cylindrical, the retort pouch features several layers of aluminum foil and durable plastic wrap to accomplish the same purpose as conventional can. Most importantly it can be boiled to the point that bacteria and enzymes that could initiate the decomposition process are eliminated.
This part of the process is the major downside, and the heated foods lose much of their distinctive flavor and individual structural integrity during this phase of the process. But, here again the MRE and its decidedly- flat presentation allow the foods to boiled for less time to achieve sterilization. This may, or may not, do much to preserve the flavor and textures of the foods within.
The US Military guarantees the flavor is better than boiled salted meat and hardtack, but on the side in the past, they referred to MREs as Meals Rejected by the Enemy, Meals Rarely Edible and Moral-Reducing Elements.
If you would like to try some, check our range of MRE meals available for sale.